PJM prepared for renewables, good friends in rail and wind, and Massachusetts's record purchase

4 March 2014 by Peebles Squire Peebles Squire

Today’s news highlights a new report by PJM on integrating up to 30 percent renewable energy onto the grid, in Texas, wind finds a friend in rail, and Massachusetts is reshaping New England’s energy landscape.

In a new study, the grid operator PJM Interconnection has concluded that even at 30 percent penetration of wind and solar energy, the grid should be able to reliably provide power… while saving people money (subscription required):

  • Even at 30% penetration of wind and solar generation by 2026, the PJM system should be able to handle the additional renewable integration with sufficient regulation reserves of up to an additional 1,500 MW and a transmission build-out of up to $13.7 billion in costs, according to a report on the study's findings. To put that in context, the PJM board in December 2013 approved $4.6 billion in transmission projects.
  • A study released in May 2013 by Americans for a Clean Energy Grid and performed by Synapse Energy Economics found that even if more than double the amount of currently expected wind power is installed, the costs of integrating those projects in the region would be "more than" offset by production efficiency gains.
  • Some of the major impacts of more renewable energy on the PJM grid include lower use of coal and combined-cycle gas turbine generation; lower emissions of criteria pollutants and greenhouse gases; minimal renewable energy curtailment; reduced systemwide production costs; and lower average locational marginal prices, or LMPs, and zonal prices.

In Texas, an initiative between a railroad company and an energy company may give us the country’s first wind logistics center:

  • Tri Global Energy announced last week it had signed on to be the project’s first and priority customer to have turbine parts shipped in by rail to the Hale County facility, which will be operated by BNSF Railway’s logistic’s subsidiary. The project will be called the West Texas Wind Energy Logistics Center and will serve Tri Global’s needs and other wind developers as Texas Panhandle wind projects are beginning a flurry of construction now that transmission lines to downstate population centers are complete.
  • The goal of the deal is to reduce the cost of shipping wind turbines, which are a substantial segment of wind farm costs. “Reducing this freight cost will result in significant savings for all Tri Global Energy projects,” states Tri Global Energy CEO John Billingsley Jr. Tri Global is developing five wind farms in the Texas Panhandle, the largest of which is a monumental 1,100-megawatt project east of Interstate 27 from Abernathy to Plainview.
  • The site for the logistics center is within a 100-mile radius of 85 percent of planned wind projects, according to information from BNSFL. Wind speeds and consistency combine with topography to put winds at the right height for turbines to capture its power, according to a written response from Tri Global spokeswoman Rhonda Dill.

Massachusetts just signed onto the largest ever bundle of wind power purchase agreements for New England, where wind power is picking up speed:

  • The winds of change are sweeping through New England, and Massachusetts is the battleground. The energy landscape is changing, and there's no better symbol for the change than the sight of wind turbines on the horizon. In New England's largest renewable energy effort to date, Massachusetts has signed several 15-year power-purchase agreements, totaling 409 megawatts of wind power.
  • The development of these projects should provide some stability to New England's chaotic energy situation. The signing of the wind farm PPAs comes on the heels of recent announcements by several major power plants that they will be retiring in the next three years.
  • It's easy to discount it as a passing trend that will soon fade away, but there are plenty of signs suggesting that wind power is a viable alternative to traditional power plants. For those looking to invest in forward-looking utilities, considering those that are adopting alternative energy sources would be a wise move.

Be sure to check out Monday’s roundup: MidAmerican bets big on renewables, the Iowa wind boom, Austin Energy leads the way

Sources:

Esther Whieldon, “PJM report finds system could cope with 30% wind and solar, suggests new measures.” SNL (subscription required). 3 March 2014.

Kevin Welch, “Rail, energy companies plan massive wind farm equipment clearinghouse.” Amarillo Globe-News. 3 March 2014.

Scott Levine, “Massachusetts Is Fighting a New Revolution.” The Motley Fool. 3 March 2014.