This Week’s Big Chill, Like Last Year, Softened by Wind Power

January 8, 2015

vortex0108

Note the distribution of anomalous cold, and warmth. From the University of Maine Climate Re-analyzer.
A now-familiar pattern, – Eastern North America in deep freeze – unusually warm in the Arctic.

Accuweather:

As the latest blast of arctic air settles southward, many areas in the East will have their coldest day of the winter so far on Thursday.

Throughout the day Thursday, temperatures are forecast to remain below the freezing mark (32 degrees Fahrenheit) from Hatteras, North Carolina, to Atlanta; Birmingham, Alabama; Memphis, Tennessee; and Little Rock, Arkansas. The cold will persist despite sunshine.

See today’s Jet Stream.

jet_rean0108

Flashback a year – I interviewed Jeff Masters and Jennifer Francis on the implications of Jet stream weirdness on wild winter weather – the Video that the National Journal called The One Video to Shut Down All Climate Change Deniers.

Meanwhile, as power generators struggle in brutal conditions, wind energy shines during these cold blustery times, keeping prices much lower than they would otherwise be.

American Wind Energy Association– January 7, 2015

wind_vortex

As the Midwest faces extreme cold this week, wind energy is once again helping to save consumers money.

During the “polar vortex” deep freeze that occurred one year ago today, wind energy saved electricity users in the Mid-Atlantic and Great Lakes states at least $1 billion in just two days. That’s according to new analysis that the American Wind Energy Association released today.

Wind energy saved consumers money during this time because it is stably priced. During the polar vortex event, natural gas power plants had to buy fuel at prices dozens of times higher than normal, translating directly into dozens of times higher electricity prices. In contrast, wind energy’s “fuel” was stable at what it always costs: zero.

Prices also skyrocketed as grid operators scrambled to deal with unexpected outages at more than 20 percent of their conventional generating fleet, while wind plants continued producing at or above expectations, keeping the lights on and prices low. These events are a powerful reminder that wind energy plays a critical role in diversifying our energy mix, improving energy reliability and protecting consumers from price spikes.

For the two days of Jan. 6 and 7, 2014, alone, the savings from using fixed-price wind energy added up to about $15 per consumer on the Mid-Atlantic and Great Lakes power grid (PJM) — or enough to buy every single person in the region a movie and popcorn. As seen in the chart below, PJM’s electricity prices were much higher on these dates than the average (indicated by the red line), but the green area shows that power prices would have spiked much higher were it not for abundant supplies of wind power during this critical time period.

wind_pricevortex

Fast forward to today: The Midwest grid just set a new wind energy record in the past 24 hours, which has helped to keep power prices low there despite high electricity demand for heating and all those things we like to plug in when we’re stuck indoors.

In both last year’s cold snap and the current one, wind energy is providing large quantities of critical electricity supply when it’s needed the most, helping keeping the lights on and reducing the impact of energy price spikes.

 

4 Responses to “This Week’s Big Chill, Like Last Year, Softened by Wind Power”

  1. MorinMoss Says:

    +3.37 deg in the Arctic? That’s completely balmy! 🙂

  2. redskylite Says:

    Well at least the latest behaviour of the Arctic jet stream is well appreciated in the London’s aircraft business:

    http://mashable.com/2015/01/08/jet-stream-new-york-london-flights/


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