August 14, 2009

How's wind doing?

Very well.

Wind was 42% of new capacity in 2008, and there's an enormous backlog of projects in the pipeline (about 300GW!). See here.

An interesting note - local grids are handling up to about 16% in wind market penetration without problems. The DOE report says: "Recent wind integration studies continue to show that wind integration costs rise with higher levels of wind penetration, but are below $10/MWh – and often below $5/MWh – for wind capacity penetrations of as much as 30% of the peak load of the system in which the wind power is delivered."

I understand that to mean the following: for a system with 100GW average load, and 150GW peak load (as a wild guess), wind capacity could rise to 45GW and still have low integration costs (well below one cent per KWH). The report indicated that capacity factors were around 35% for recent projects, so that gives us 15.75GW average, or 15.75% market penetration of KWH production.

This study doesn't say we can't get well above 16%. It just says that with current grid engineering, we can achieve at least 16% without a problem.

And that's pretty good. It's consistent with a lot of such studies: none of them found a maximum for renewables. I've seen some that showed that something in the range of 20% was possible just for wind, but weren't testing the hypothesis that more than that could be done. IOW, most of them said it was the minimum that could be done, based on current grid technology. They didn't test such things as expanded long-distance transmission, greatly expanded Demand Side Management, a large fleet of PHEV/EVs providing demand buffering and V2G; greatly expanded storage; etc.

Here's a good example: This modelling study* says that given current tech and some modest assumptions on price change, that 20% wind penetration is likely in 2050. It doesn't say that it's a maximum, and it doesn't take into account the effect of an aggressive policy push toward wind, and new conditions, such as 230M PHEV/EVs.

There's enormous potential out there.

*The study just gives a result of 300GW of wind power, so we have to do some calculations.

The DOE reports that new farms in the last several years are achieving an average of 35% capacity factor. The modelling study doesn't give the total generation in 2050, so we have to guess that it assumes something like DOE projections of 1200 GW system capacity. That gives us 11.6% growth (1200/1075 currently).

If we use 35% and 11.6% growth that gives 20.1%.

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