Report: Cost for ERCOT and Xcel to Integrate Wind and Solar Is Less Than Expected
Wind and solar power comes and goes with the weather, and requires new technologies and techniques to smoothly integrate into power grids that must keep supply and demand in perfect balance at all times. The potential high costs and reliability challenges of this integration have become a central argument against the coal power phase-outs and increasing reliance on renewables called for in the Obama administration’s Clean Power Plan.
But the experiences of wind-rich Texas grid operator ERCOT and Colorado utility Xcel Energy show that this balance can be accomplished at relatively low cost, compared to the dire projections we’re seeing from groups that say the grid can’t handle the growth. That’s according to a report released Wednesday by the clean energy business advocacy group Advanced Energy Economy, which found that these two entities have “managed to successfully integrate increasing amounts of variable renewable energy resources at costs that have generally been small to modest.”
“For example, ERCOT estimated the cost of integrating its first 10,000 megawatts of wind, approximately the capacity currently deployed, to be about $0.50 per megawatt-hour of wind generation,” the report stated. That’s far below the estimates from different utilities and grid operators for wind penetration levels below 20 percent of peak load, which lie between $2-$5 per megawatt-hour to as high as $6-$11 per megawatt-hour, according to the analysis by The Brattle Group, which prepared the report for AEE.