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In the ongoing national conversation about the role of clean, alternative sources of power, various measures exist to gauge the success of these industries in grabbing a bigger share of our nation’s total energy consumption.
A recent measure made it clear that wind power has arrived. The Midwest Independent System Operator (MISO) announced that wind power had reached a peak by surpassing 10,000 megawatts (MW). Specifically, the output from wind reached a peak of 10,012 MW overnight on Nov. 23, 2012.
The peak represents a steady growth trend in wind power for the region, reflecting the region’s investment in the industry over a six-year period. MISO, the regional grid operator for 11 states and the Canadian province of Manitoba, first started integrating wind power into its market operations in 2006. The region enjoyed a little more than 1,000 MW of capacity at the end of that year. Wind power has expanded steadily since then, reaching a total generating capacity of nearly 12,500 MW as of September 2012. MISO reports that another 7,000 MW of projects are currently advancing through various stages of interconnection.
The 10,000 MW peak also represents a milestone for the region by various other measures. For example, MISO reports that the Nov. 23 output from wind accounted for more than 25 percent of the total generation output being used at the time. By comparison, that would exceed the total renewable-energy portfolio standard of many states.
At 12,500 MW, the total wind-generating capacity accounts for about 9.5 percent of MISO’s total market generating capacity of 132,313 MW. Wind is also by far the largest source of renewable power for the region. Generating capacity for all renewables is 14 percent for the region. By contrast, coal represents 48 percent of the region’s total generating capacity, while gas and oil represent a combined 32 percent.