Challenges of Adding Wind Power in the Southwest Power Pool

Adding more wind energy to the grid accomplishes several objectives: it reduces reliance on imported energy, adds pollution-free generation and creates desperately needed jobs. The Southwest Power Pool (SPP) is aggressively planning to bring wind power from where it is best generated to where it is most needed.

SPP is a group of 56 members in Arkansas, Kansas, Louisiana, Mississippi, Missouri, Nebraska, New Mexico, Oklahoma, and Texas, comprising investor-owned utilities, municipal systems, generation and transmission cooperatives, state authorities, wholesale generators, power marketers, and independent transmission companies.

Today, only 4 percent of SPP electricity is generated by wind, but the members want to add substantially more.

Toward that goal, SPP’s Wind Integration Task Force had Charles River Associates, a leading global consulting firm, conduct a Wind Integration Study.

The recently released results found that enhanced electricity reserves and major transmission reinforcements are needed to integrate higher levels of wind generation. If the needed transmission upgrades were completed, there would be no significant technical barriers or reliability impacts to integrate wind energy levels up to 20 percent.

SPP’s wind-generation resources are primarily located in the region’s western part, typically in sparsely populated areas with little transmission and electricity demand. The study examined three wind-penetration levels and compared each to current system conditions. Detailed analysis included 10 percent and 20 percent annual wind-production levels and limited analysis on a 40 percent case.

The study found that an increase in the wind-penetration level causes changes in power flow patterns, particularly increased flow from the western to the eastern part of the region. This would require upgrades and reconfigurations to the transmission system.

To achieve 10 percent wind energy, new transmission lines totaling 1,260 miles of 345-kilovolt (kV) and 40 miles of 230-kV lines are needed. For a 20 percent case, an additional 485 miles of 765-kV, 766 miles of 345-kV, 205 miles of 230-kV, and 25 miles of 115-kV lines are needed.

Assuming transmission upgrades are in place, the following are other significant study findings:

• Integrating levels of wind for the 10 percent and 20 percent cases could be attained without adversely impacting system reliability.

• Wind integration would be greatly facilitated by the creation of a consolidated balancing authority for the entire region. A balancing authority should reduce overall needs for electric reserves and flexible resources and provide greater flexibility to quickly respond to injections of wind energy into the grid.

Efficient wind integration requires a sophisticated process for determining what generating units are used throughout the region, explicitly addressing the uncertainty associated with wind-forecast errors. The implementation of a centralized forecasting system would be advantageous.

Study recommendations have been assigned to SPP working groups for further consideration and development to expedite the building of the needed infrastructure to generate more wind power and jobs.

About the Author

Mike Breslin

Freelance Writer
Mike Breslin is a freelance writer based in New Jersey. He has 30-years experience writing for newspapers, magazines, multimedia and video production companies with concentration on business, energy, environmental and technical subjects. Mike is auth...

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