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Oct 13, 2019

Grid operator reports latest record for renewables used to meet energy demands

The Oklahoman | October 13, 2019

The Minco II wind farm southwest of Minco, is seen in 2016. Oklahoma has about 8 gigawatts of wind-generated energy installed, so far. [OKLAHOMAN ARCHIVES]

The Minco II wind farm southwest of Minco, is seen in 2016. Oklahoma has about 8 gigawatts of wind-generated energy installed, so far. [OKLAHOMAN ARCHIVES]

The wind swept across the Great Plains early Wednesday, and electricity customers across the region benefited from it again.

The Southwest Power announced Friday on Twitter that it met its load requirement on the regional transmission grid it operates using a record 73.67% of energy generated by renewable resources at 2:14 a.m. on Oct. 9.

The grid had a load for needed energy of about 22.5 gigawatts at the time, and renewable sources in play, consisting of mostly wind with some hydro-generation, supplied about 16.5 gigawatts of that, officials said.

Wednesday’s record is just the latest in a string of wind and renewable milestones observed by the grid operator during the past decade.

The Southwest Power Pool recently carried a record 17.1 gigawatts of wind-generated energy at 12:30 p.m. on Sept. 30.

It also set a peak load record of about 50.7 gigawatts at 4:39 p.m. on Aug. 19, which the grid was able to meet without anyone outside its operator likely noticing.

The regional transmission organization supplies power to utilities, cooperatives and other power consumers across Oklahoma and all or parts of 13 other states stretching from the Red River all the way to the U.S.-Canadian border.

A representative of the grid operator reached Friday stated SPP officials anticipate the record-setting trend won’t end any time soon.

“As more renewables come onto our system and our operators and market systems consistently prove themselves able to reliably dispatch it, we anticipate we’ll continue to break renewable records,” Meghan Sever, a communications specialist with SPP, stated in an email on Friday.

Sever’s statement echoes one previously made by C.J. Brown, the regional transmission organization’s director of operations, who said he expected records would continue to fall after an April announcement that the Southwest Power Pool had met 23.3 gigawatts of needed power using 15.3 gigawatts of wind-generated energy.

He attributed that not only to the organization’s success in building transmission lines to get that power onto the SPP grid, but also SPP’s efforts to improve its load forecasting and reliability and pricing functions.

In April, Brown said there was 21.5 gigawatts of installed wind capacity within the SPP’s territory available to energize the system’s 66,000 miles of high voltage lines.

Double that amount was currently being developed, as well as about 24.5 gigawatts of solar power and about 4.4 gigawatts of battery storage.

At the end of 2018, Oklahoma had 8 gigawatts of developed wind power projects, third-most among states in the nation.

Brown and other SPP officials have repeatedly stressed the Southwest Power Pool is fuel agnostic, meaning it doesn’t prefer energy generated from renewable sources over energy generated by fossil fuels, for example.

However, it does strive to use the most reliable power sources available that it can find within its system to meet anticipated load needs daily, and then chooses the most affordable among those to supply what’s needed.

Renewables have a pricing advantage over other power sources that consume a fuel to generate electricity.

And their cheaper costs continue to provide dividends to millions of customers served by utilities and other power distributors who take energy from the grid.

In September, the 2018 State of the Markets report issued by the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission stated the Southwest Power Pool had the lowest average wholesale electricity prices in the nation that year.

SPP officials said its integrated marketplace, which identifies anticipated needs for power and sources to meet those needs, works in tandem with the organization’s other services to consistently save grid users money.

In fact, it estimates SPP market participants cumulatively have saved more than $2.7 billion in costs since 2014, an average of $570 million, annually.

“Through whatever energy transitions the future may hold, SPP will work with our members to keep the lights on, today and in the future,” Sever stated on Friday.

<img src="" alt="<strong>This map shows the area of the U.S. served by grid operated by the Southwest Power Pool.

This map shows the area of the U.S. served by grid operated by the Southwest Power Pool.