Wind generation records fall in Texas, Colorado, Pacific Northwest

Three more wind electricity generation records were notched recently, in Texas, Colorado, and the Pacific Northwest, as the increased generating capacity installed last year continues to make its presence felt.

On February 9, a strong weekend cold front that brought needed rain to much of Texas also propelled the Electric Reliability Council of Texas (ERCOT), which operates the utility system serving most of the state, to a new wind power record, with wind generation providing 9,481 MW of power at 7:08 p.m. Under typical conditions, one MW of electricity can power approximately 800 average American homes.

The wind generation provided nearly 28 percent of the electricity demand in ERCOT at the time and easily surpassed–by 814 MW, or nearly 10 percent–the previous record of 8,667 MW set on January 29 by 814 MW.

Of the total, according to ERCOT:

7,205 megawatts (MW) came from West Texas.
1,620 MW came from the Texas Gulf Coast.
431 MW came from North Texas.
225 MW came from South Texas.

"As wind generation capacity continues to be added in ERCOT and additional transmission lines are being completed to accommodate that generation, we continue to set new records," said Kent Saathoff, ERCOT’s vice president of Grid Operations and System Planning. "While wind generation over the course of a day can change very quickly, improved tools help us predict those patterns and enable us to reliably  use this resource to its fullest potential."

ERCOT has more than 10,400 MW of commercial wind power capacity, with the addition of 372 MW in December. Wind power comprised 9.2 percent of total energy used in the ERCOT region in 2012, compared to 8.5 percent in 2011.

The completion of the remainder of the high-voltage transmission projects in the Competitive Renewable Energy Zones by the end of 2013 will continue to improve ERCOT’s ability to move wind power from West Texas to the metropolitan areas where demand on the grid is highest.

ERCOT manages the flow of electric power to 23 million Texas customers, representing 85 percent of the state's electric load. As the independent system operator (ISO) for the region, ERCOT schedules power on an electric grid that connects 40,500 miles of transmission lines and more than 550 generation units.

Wind milestones in Colorado

As 2012 proved to be a banner year for the wind industry nationwide, Xcel Energy in Colorado said February 12 that it also achieved a number of significant wind energy milestones that have continued through to this year. The highlight for purposes of this article came January 16 at 1 a.m., when the utility's system set a new record for wind generation of 1,960 MW.

The new record was spurred in part by the installation and commissioning in 2012 of a 400-MW wind farm built near Limon, Colo., by NextEra Energy Systems. Xcel Energy commented, "The output of that wind farm is purchased exclusively for Xcel Energy customers and helped maintain Xcel Energy’s standing as the number one utility wind provider in the U.S."

According to AWEA, Colorado ranked 10th for new wind generation in 2012, adding 496 MW of new wind generating capacity statewide.

“Our wind resources have proven to be invaluable for our customers in Colorado and have led to very balanced portfolio of generating resources for Xcel Energy,” said David Eves, president and CEO of Public Service Co. of Colorado, an Xcel Energy company. “The costs associated with the acquisition of renewables in 2012 were right for our customers.”

Also of note, at the end of 2012, wind farms serving Xcel Energy Colorado customers generated 5.75 million megawatt-hours of electricity, or more than 16 percent of the approximately 35.9 million megawatt-hours sold during the year. This was a record for the company in Colorado and puts Xcel Energy squarely on the path of meeting its state mandate of 30 percent for wind generation sales by 2020.

The utility also noted that the 5.75 million megawatt-hours (MWh) of wind generation contributed greatly to improving Colorado’s air quality. According to a news release from the company, total wind on Xcel Energy’s system in 2012 helped reduce carbon dioxide emission by an estimated 4,197,500 tons, or the equivalent emissions for the year of more than 793,000 vehicles. Estimated nitrogen oxide emissions were reduced by 4,310 tons. Earlier in 2012, the company had achieved a nationwide record for wind penetration on its system. On April 15, Xcel Energy was serving nearly 57 percent of its total, one-hour demand for electricity with wind generated in the state.

“We believe 2012 was an exceptionally good year for the wind industry in Colorado, as it was an exceptionally good year for the nation,” Eves said. “With wind production in our other Xcel Energy states, we maintained our position as the number one utility provider of wind, and we hope to continue to advance that position this year.”

New wind output record in Pacific Northwest

On February 16, a new record for wind output was set on the main utility system in the Pacific Northwest, the Bonneville Power Administration power system. Wind energy output peaked at 4,402 MW at 4:05 PM, breaking the previous record of 4,344 MW that was set on January 29.

Commented AWEA Manager of Transmission Michael Goggin, "The new wind records being set by these utility systems and others are testament to the fact that large amounts of wind power can be cost-effectively and reliably integrated into utility operations.”

Related articles:

More new wind generation records: Texas, Spain, UK, February 5, 2013
Bonneville reaches new peak for wind generation: 4,344 MW, January 31, 2013
ERCOT sets wind generation record on Christmas Day, January 14, 2013
Southwest Power Pool achieves wind penetration record, December 20, 2012
ERCOT, SPP systems see record wind generation levels, November 21, 2012
Texas system operator tallies new record: 8,368 MW, June 21, 2012
WINDPOWER 2012 Update: Xcel Colorado sets new mark with 56.7% wind, June 5, 2012
Wind generation sets new records in Texas, Spain, May 22, 2012
Across the U.S., wind power sets new generation records, February 13, 2012
Xcel sets world record with 55.6% wind penetration, November 28, 2011
After a scorching week, wind power lessons from the Texas heat wave, August 11, 2011
Wind energy integration: Some fundamental facts, June 23, 2011


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