ISO-NE Study Says Wind Could Meet Nearly One-Quarter Of Regional Needs

ISO New England's (ISO-NE) New England Wind Integration Study (NEWIS), found that up to 12,000 MW of onshore and offshore wind could be developed in the region, potentially meeting up to 24% of the region's annual electricity needs.

New England's potential for development of large amounts of wind resources is especially high in the mountainous North and off our coasts,’ said Gordon van Welie, president and CEO of ISO-NE, during a recent discussion of the NEWIS report. ‘Theoretically, New England's windy landscape, both on- and offshore, could produce up to 200,000 MW of wind energy.’Â

In New England, public policy and public sentiment have increased the focus on development of renewable resources. State renewable portfolio standards (RPS) and the Regional Greenhouse Gas Initiative are driving renewable energy development in the region. Â

Demand for renewable energy would increase to 30% by 2020 if all of the RPS of all of the New England states were taken together, according to the report. Currently, approximately 14% of the region's energy comes from renewable resources. Out of this, approximately 270 MW comes from wind. ISO-NE's interconnection queue includes 8,000 MW of new generation, with 2,800 MW worth of wind energy.Â

In order to handle the additional influx of power, adjustments will need to be made, according to the report.Â

‘Right now, the small amount of wind on the system is very manageable, but as this amount grows, operating the system will require new data and information for system operators as well as new operating procedures,’ said John Norden, ISO-NE's director of operations, who directed the study. Â

For example, transmission would need to be upgraded considerably to handle the additional power. The study showed that it would be more cost-effective to interconnect large-scale wind projects in the region rather than to pay for new transmission lines from the Midwest to New England.Â

ISO-NE estimates that adding 12,000 MW of wind power and building new transmission lines would cost between $19 billion to $25 billion.Â

In addition, the power system must be able to compensate for wind's invariability. As a result of this, accurate wind forecasting tools will be necessary.Â

‘Other types of generation must be available to level out the variations in wind and to provide reserves in case of a drop-off in wind energy production,’ said Norden. ‘The minute-to-minute variations in demand are currently met by generators that can increase or decrease their output in response to signals every four seconds from the ISO.’Â

In addition to fulfilling the region's energy needs, adding wind power would reduce the use of oil and natural-gas-fired power plants.Â

‘The energy from wind would primarily affect natural-gas-fired generators because they are often the marginal units dispatched to meet demand in New England,’ said Norden. ‘The study also showed that the addition of large-scale wind generation would almost fully reduce the use of oil-fired power plants.’Â

NEWIS took two years to complete, and more needs to be done to prepare the grid for additional wind power, according to ISO-NE. GE recommended refining the conceptual transmission overlays developed initially for the New England Governors' technical analysis – including detailed engineering analysis on issues such as voltage and stability to determine if the hypothetical transmission expansion scenarios are viable.Â

In addition, GE suggested that ISO-NE incorporate actual wind data into system operations analyses to improve reliable wind forecasting, operations and system planning as more wind comes online. Finally, further study of the region's ability to maintain enough flexible resources in order to compensate for invariability should be conducted.Â

‘NEWIS has been a significant undertaking to determine what would be needed to integrate large amounts of wind into New England's power system operations and wholesale markets,’ said Norden. ‘To advance New England's preparations to integrate large quantities of wind, more work still needs to be done.’Â

ISO-NE plans to review the findings of the report with stakeholders. Any procedural or market changes will then go through ISO-NE's process for stakeholder input.

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