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Colorado Study Confirms Low Grid Integration Costs for Wind

December 9, 2008

A new study released this week once again adds to the body of peer-reviewed literature confirming that the cost of integrating wind energy with the electric grid is quite low.

The study, conducted for Xcel Energy by EnerNex Corp., examines the cost of meeting 20% of electricity nee ds with wind energy on Xcel’s Public Service Company of Colorado system. The new results add to earlier phases of the wind integration study, released in May 2006, which found that 10% and 15% wind penetrations could also be attained at low cost.

Dozens of peer-reviewed wind integration studies in the U.S. and Europe have reached the same conclusion: there are no insurmountable technical barriers to the reliable integration of wind energy, and the cost of adjusting power system operations to accommodate wind energy is typically low. Most studies have found that these costs are under $0.005 per kWh of wind ($5 per megawatt-hour, MWh), or about 10% of the typical wholesale price of wind energy. The Colorado study found that wind integration costs are $3.51 per MWh in the 10% wind penetration scenario, $4.77 per MWh in the 15% scenario, and $5.13 per MWh in the 20% wind scenario.

Like other wind integration studies, this latest study found that system operators can take steps to reduce wind integration costs. The study confirmed that wind forecasting significantly reduces wind integration costs, as does making the power system more flexible.

Also similar to the conclusions of other studies, the Colorado study found significant benefits to aggregating wind power from a broad geographic area, an approach which can cancel out much of the variability in the wind resource. That finding highlights the importance of initiating greater coordination between neighboring regions of the grid, as well as having a more robust grid that allows wind power to flow from region to region.

Source: Wind Energy Weekly 1317 (5 December 2008).