US Wind Generation Sets New Records Throughout 2016
The past decade of steady wind plant commissioning throughout the United States is paying dividends with new records being achieved on the proportion of electricity demand sourced by wind. The Electric Reliability Council of Texas (ERCOT), the grid operator for the state, recently announced it had hit an all-time record of wind output on November 27, with 15,033 MW of wind online just after noon that day. This represented around 45% of total electricity demand in the state, with over 24 million residents served by the ERCOT grid. The portion of load served by wind that day ranged from about 35% to more than 46%, averaging nearly 41% throughout the day. The previous wind generation output record of 14,122 MW was set on November 17, 2016. The current record for percentage of load served—48.28%—was set on March 23, 2016, at 1:10 a.m.
On an overall annual basis, in 2015, wind generation provided 11.7% of the energy used in the ERCOT region. As of the end of October, wind had served 14.7% of the region’s energy needs so far in 2016. With over 18,531 MW installed, Texas has more wind capacity online than any other state. This is largely thanks to a combination of high energy demand, strong wind resources, a permissive permitting environment, and major proactive state-based investments in transmission. In fact, Texas has so much wind on its system that electricity retailers are offering plans to consumers that include free electricity at night.
Across the Country
Texas isn’t the only state breaking records for wind capacity. The American Wind Energy Association (AWEA) has surveyed other grid operators and compiled other noteworthy examples of wind providing substantial proportions of electricity demand. North of ERCOT, the Southwest Power Pool (SPP) also benefits from similarly strong wind resources and abundant land for wind farms and easy permitting. On the same day ERCOT surpassed 15,000 MW, the SPP grid surpassed 11,300 MW, also representing a similar proportion of 48% electricity demand.
In the Midwest Independent System Operator (MISO) market, wind reached 25% of demand in late 2012. This is a large market, and its historic peak load for all generation was 126,337 MW in July of 2011. In the Northwest corner of the country, the Bonneville Power Administration says the record for wind capacity as a percentage of total demand peaked at 42.7% with 4,594 MW. Colorado saw wind supply 66.4% of total generation in the state, with 2,352 MW on the system.