Eastern US Could Feasibly Meet 20% To 30% Of Electricity Needs From Wind By 2024


From the cover of the EWITS.

Scientists and engineers at the National Renewable Energy Lab are out of the huddle with a preliminary analysis of just how far Easterners can go with the wind. Per the recently completed Eastern Wind Integration and Transmission Study (EWITS) [a pdf file], the eastern half of America, it is projected, can satisfy around a fifth of its future demand from wind power. This is not a "plan" by any stretch of the imagination; but, the study makes clear that both inter-state transmission line extensions and grid interconnections are crucial for the future of America.

Comment: without added nuclear power and more energy conservation, in context of this study, "we the people" are screwed. I know there is debate over why renewable "distributed" power sources are not figured in. But, that debate overlooks the need for at least some additional nuclear power. And, the Marcellus Shale natural gas question, for that matter. Below, are the high level conclusions of the report.

I'm gonna need some help understanding that very last sentence (shown in bold below).


  • High penetrations of wind generation--20% to 30% of the electrical energy requirements of the Eastern Interconnection--are technically feasible with significant expansion of the transmission infrastructure.

  • New transmission will be required for all the future wind scenarios in the Eastern Interconnection, including the Reference Case. Planning for this transmission, then, is imperative because it takes longer to build new transmission capacity than it does to build new wind plants.

  • Without transmission enhancements, substantial curtailment (shutting down) of wind generation would be required for all the 20% scenarios.

  • Interconnection-wide costs for integrating large amounts of wind generation are manageable with large regional operating pools and significant market, tariff, and operational changes.

  • Transmission helps reduce the impacts of the variability of the wind, which reduces wind integration costs, increases reliability of the electrical grid, and helps make more efficient use of the available generation resources. Although costs for aggressive expansions of the existing grid are significant, they make up a relatively small portion of the total annualized costs in any of the scenarios studied.

  • Carbon emission reductions in the three 20% wind scenarios do not vary by much, indicating that wind displaces coal in all scenarios and that coal generation is not significantly exported from the Midwest to the eastern United States; carbon emissions are reduced at an increased rate in the 30% wind scenario as more gas generation is used to accommodate wind variability. Wind generation displaces carbon-based fuels, directly reducing carbon dioxide (CO2) emissions. Emissions continue to decline as more wind is added to the supply picture. Increasing the cost of carbon in the analysis results in higher total production costs.

And, at last, the money quote:

With large balancing areas and fully developed regional markets, the cost of integration for all scenariosis about $5 (US$ 2009) per megawatt-hour (MWh) of wind, or about $0.005 per kilowatt-hour (kWh) of electricity used by customers.
I'd like to comment on the importance of grid interconnection. Congress being the fractious herd that it is, we might well expect it to default to the 'every state for itself' approach, in which case coal-dependent states like Florida really will get the short straw. This is the predetermined outcome unless citizens of coal-dependent states realize that "United We Stand "means something useful and push their legislators to make the grid capable of uniting us all.

The Greed rules for now, unfortunately. See Chemical Company Challenges Plan To Distribute Texas Wind Power ...for a powerful example of short term profit interest negating the common good.