Renewable Energy Powers the Plains

March 18, 2021

The Great Plains starting to live up to their rep as the “Saudi Arabia of Wind”.

S&P Global:

Southwest Power Pool set a new renewable penetration record of 81.39% on March 14, breaking a record set less than a week ago and causing wholesale power prices to dive.

North Hub off-peak day-ahead locational marginal prices sank to minus $10.82/MWh for March 15, while South Hub off-peak real-time dropped to minus $6.18/MWh, according to SPP data. Off-peak real-time has averaged minus 39 cents/MWh so far this month after falling into negative territory on seven days so far this month, compared to a total of five days for all of March 2020, two days in March 2019 and one days on 2018, according to SPP data.

“SPP’s renewable capacity has risen steadily and dramatically over the last decade, and we’ve repeatedly set and subsequently beat renewable records over that time,” SPP spokeswoman Meghan Sever said March 15 in an email. “While SPP has a large percentage of renewables in our footprint, our diverse fuel mix and a robust transmission grid remain necessary to reliably dispatch the resources in our region.”

The majority of SPP’s renewable generation comes from wind power, which averaged 64.6% of the total fuel mix on March 14, the highest daily average on record, according to SPP data. Wind-powered generation has averaged 47.16% of the total fuel mix, up from an average of 38.7% for the same period in March 2020.

5 Responses to “Renewable Energy Powers the Plains”

  1. John Oneill Says:

    “While SPP has a large percentage of renewables in our footprint, our diverse fuel mix and a robust transmission grid remain necessary to reliably dispatch the resources in our region.” In other words, while wind might have reached into the eighties percentile in March, it spent much of February between 5 and 15 %, with coal and gas almost exactly mirroring its ups and downs. Rather a long gap to cover with batteries, you think? And with wholesale prices being shoved into negative territory so often, rather less incentive to build new wind ? Not to mention destroying the economic rationale of nuclear, which provided steady low-carbon power the whole time.

  2. Mark Mev Says:

    Oversizing/curtailment of wind/solar, coupled with a HVDC interconnect US grid, green hydrogen for long term storage, batteries for short term, sounds a lot better to me than billions for new nuclear plants. Keep the old nukes running until we don’t need them. Just my belief and hope. At least that is where my investment dollars are going.

    • greenman3610 Says:

      you’re pretty much in line with the best projections

      whether it’s green hydrogen or any of a dozen other technologies coming along, we can get to 90 percent clean energy with current technology

      • John Oneill Says:

        Not sure what the dozen other promising contenders are, but hydrogen is not a straight plug-in for natural gas, as many assume. Gas is not generally stored, except in the ground – it’s mostly a just-in-time fuel. A few days extra pressure in the pipelines, some wells converted to storage, like Allison Canyon. (Liquefied Natural Gas is being used where pipelines can’t reach, but it’s costlier, and liquid hydrogen has half the fuel density and needs to be ~100C colder.) Texas showed that without constant production, there was no resilience in the system. Hydrogen is much less dense a fuel, so needs three times more volume or higher pressures, can leach through and embrittle metals, and if reliant on wind and solar, will never have constant production.
        The hydrogen and batteries in use now are a miniscule part of the energy scene – I would not call them a proof of viability. Yet you’re confident that, with W&S, they can scale from far below one percent to ninety percent in fifteen years. Ontario, France, Sweden, and Switzerland have had over ninety percent fossil-free grids for thirty years already, mostly with nuclear and hydro, but for some reason that’s seen as just too difficult.
        Same story with public transport versus EVs. When I was a kid, electric trolley buses ran all over this hilly city, with hooks on the front for mums to hang their prams on. Now the roads have all been widened to accommodate the parking and traffic, and it seems everyone will have to buy a self-driving car with a giant battery. Plus a solar panel on their garage. Till then, everyone drives internal combustion, external pollution wagons.

        • rhymeswithgoalie Says:

          From my perspective, the “proof of viability” of energy storage solutions are the market-makers salivating over the large swings in energy prices. While wind turbines may all be generating at the same time, at some point it becomes more cost-effective to shunt the excess electricity into storage* that might not be the most efficient, but pays for itself when the price spikes.

          Investors are chasing all sorts of technologies for storing energy, and a whole bunch of them will lose money, but the winners will win big.

          *liquid air battery, pumped storage, biowaste processing, deferred hydroelectric generation, dry mass elevation, whatever

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