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Study Finds Up To 25% Wind Can Be Incorporated Reliably Into Electric Power System

Results of a new study show that, under the right policies, utilities can incorporate wind power into their resource portfolio, comprising up to one-fourth of their delivered energy, without sacrificing reliability and with minor costs for absorbing the wind.

The Midwest Wind Integration Study, which was required by the Minnesota legislature in 2005 to evaluate reliability and other impacts of higher levels of wind generation and carried out independently by EnerNex Corporation and WindLogics, found that the total integration cost for up to 25% wind energy delivered to all Minnesota customers is less than one-half cent ($0.0045 cents) per kWh of wind generation.The 25% penetration level of wind -- equivalent to that provided in the U.S. today by nuclear power (20%), or natural gas and hydropower combined (25%) -- is predicated on operating in the Midwest Independent System Operator (MISO) service area, control area consolidation (currently underway in MISO), geographic diversity of the wind power, and adequate transmission.

"With excellent input from the utilities, MISO, wind interests, and national experts, we reached consensus on overall study methods and assumptions, on the wind scenarios to be studied, on the modeling approach, and on the key findings," said Ken Wolf, Minnesota Reliability Administrator and study manager.

"This study is groundbreaking in its examination of the highest level of wind energy penetration ever undertaken in an authoritative U.S. power system study," said Utility Wind Integration Group (UWIG) Executive Director J. Charles Smith. UWIG brings together utilities that have wind on their systems or are interested in its development. "Denmark and several regions in Europe have already achieved such high levels of wind energy use. What this study provides is insight into how such levels can also be accommodated here in the U.S., and the conclusion is clear: under good system conditions such as those in the MISO service territory, wind energy can be readily integrated into the utility system."

"The study is especially significant both because of the amount of wind involved and the fact that it was sanctioned by the Minnesota legislature," said American Wind Energy Association (AWEA) Deputy Policy Director Mike Jacobs. "The Minnesota study shows that, when the wind generation is spread around the state, and MISO markets and operators do what they do best, integration costs are a small concern. Like the studies that have come before, this report shows the relative ease in absorbing the wind -- opening the way for wind energy's benefits to be reaped on a large scale for consumers, and for our economy, environment, and energy security."

Beth Soholt, Director of Wind on the Wires, said, "The study is an important piece to achieving a higher level of wind penetration in the Midwest. The robust participation as well as the good results will go a long way in advancing wind power in Minnesota and the region." Wind on the Wires brings together wind developers, environmental organizations, tribal representatives and clean energy advocates to remove bottlenecks in the transmission system and give wind energy equal access to transmission lines.

The Minnesota study is the latest in a series examining how utilities can manage ever-larger amounts of wind power on their systems, and it comes at a time of strong growth for the wind industry. Even though wind provides less than 1% of total U.S. electricity generation today, with 2,700 megawatts (MW) expected to be completed in 2006, wind will be the second-largest source of new power generation (in both new capacity installed and new electricity produced) for the second year in a row.

The study scope included evaluation of reliability and costs associated with increasing wind capacity to 15%, 20% and 25% of Minnesota retail electric energy sales by 2020. The study process included a Technical Review Committee comprised of numerous stakeholders from both the private and public sector: Minnesota utilities subject to the Minnesota Renewable Energy Objective (10% by 2015), MISO, Midwest Reliability Organization/Mid-Continent Area Power Pool, Minnesota Department of Commerce, Minnesota Public Utilities Commission, Community-Based Energy Development, U.S. Department of Energy National Laboratories (Oak Ridge and National Renewable Energy Laboratory), Utility Wind Integration Group, and study contractors EnerNex and WindLogics. In particular, MISO was a key study participant that supplied power system data and technical expertise, as well as ran much of the system modeling.

The Minnesota report is a milestone in the wind energy industry's and utilities' efforts to ensure strong system reliability with minimum added expenses while bringing online more clean and renewable wind power. Aware of some utilities' concerns about the possible reliability and cost impacts of integrating large amounts of wind, and in order to provide up-to-date information to their members, UWIG, the Edison Electric Institute (EEI), the American Public Power Association (APPA) and the National Rural Electric Cooperative Association (NRECA) together issued a paper earlier this year on the "state of the art" of utility wind integration. The paper, which "does not advocate any particular policy or position," was a watershed development because these associations together represent all the nation's electric utilities. Wind power can have impacts, the paper notes, but these can be managed through proper plant interconnection, integration, transmission planning, and system and market operations. This and other studies are available at

Such wind system integration studies focus on system integration operation costs. Estimates for fuel savings, lower pollution compliance costs, greenhouse gas emissions reduction, and other benefits flowing from using wind are not usually quantified in the studies. Even so, the UWIG-EEI-APPA-NRECA paper noted that "In many cases, customer payments for electricity can be decreased when wind is added to the system, because the operating-cost increases could be offset by savings from displacing fossil fuel generation."

The full Minnesota report, once posted, will be on the Minnesota Public Utilities website at The NWCC presentation, once posted, will be at under Midwest Wind and Transmission Workshop VI.

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