January 01, 2012

Wind Energy in the West: Transmission, Operations, and Market Reforms

Jennifer E. Gardner and Ronald L. Lehr

The benefits of renewable energy have been touted for decades. Wind energy development, in particular, has increased dramatically over the past ten years. In 2009, nearly 10,000 megawatts (MW) of wind was installed, bringing the total wind capacity in the United States to over 35,000 MW—a nearly twelve-fold increase since the year 2000. K. Porter & J. Rogers, Status of Centralized Wind Power Forecasting in North America, Subcontractor Report for NREL, Apr. 2010 (hereinafter Wind Power Forecasting Report). Last year, despite a stagnant economy, cumulative wind power capacity grew by 15 percent, bringing the U.S. total to more than 40,000 MW. U.S. Dep’t of Energy, 2010 Wind Technologies Market Report, Executive Summary (2011). Wind and other renewable energy sources have enormous potential to not only reduce dependence on fossil fuels, but to reduce overall carbon emissions. Yet, despite the inherent benefits of wind power, it is a variable and uncertain generation resource—in other words, the wind is not always blowing. As a result, some have raised concerns regarding the reliability of electric grids that derive a large fraction of their energy from wind. Others have taken issue with the costs of reliably integrating large amounts of variable generation into electric grid operations.

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