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New York addresses connection backlog

UNITED STATES: New York's current installed wind capacity could increase more than fivefold without compromising reliability and could even generate energy at such a low cost that it reduces wholesale electricity prices and greenhouse gas emissions.

These are the findings of a study by the New York Independent System Operator (NYISO), which looked at expanding wind power from the existing 1.28GW to 8GW by 2018. According to its report, Growing Wind: NYISO 2010 Wind Generation Study, 8GW is more than 20% of New York's expected load in 2018.

But the study also found that transmission upgrades and additional power regulation would be required to accommodate the extra wind. Regulation is the moment-to-moment balancing of load with changing generation.

Even with a less ambitious goal of 6GW of wind, nearly 9% of the potential wind energy in three areas in upstate New York would be constrained or undeliverable because of gridlock. The constrained wind power, however, could be slashed to 2% by $75-$325 million in transmission upgrades.

Transmission constraints would primarily be local, in 115kV facilities. In contrast, the expected 1.4GW of installed offshore wind energy would be fully deliverable because it could easily be shipped to nearby populous areas and because the offshore wind blows more during peak demand times. The report did not estimate the cost of greater power regulation, which it admits would offset some of the production cost savings.

The massive increase in installed wind capacity is highly likely. There are already more than 7GW of proposed new wind projects seeking interconnection to the New York power grid. The state has a goal of getting at least 30% of its electricity sourced from renewable sources by 2015.

The report also found that the addition of 1MW of wind would replace only 0.2MW to 0.3MW of existing capacity, due to the variability of wind. Even so, no change in the amount of operating reserves would be needed to cover the largest likely instantaneous drop in wind or other contingencies.

To address the issue of wind's variability, complementary energy storage technologies, such as batteries and flywheels, are being developed in New York, the report notes. In addition, the NYISO runs a wind dispatch system based on individual generators' bids, and wind forecasting that uses data on speed and direction collected by interconnected wind resources, as well as other meteorological data.

The overall system production costs would decrease as wind's penetration increases. That is because a power system's production cost is the cost of fuel to produce electricity plus incremental operations and maintenance.

The more electricity derived from wind farms, the lower the overall system production cost will be, since the fuel is free, says NYISO spokesman Ken Klapp.

For the 2013 study year, the production costs drop from the base-case total of almost $6 billion to a level of approximately $5.3 billion for the 6GW wind scenario - a drop of 11.1%. For the 2018 study year, the production costs drop from the base-case total of almost $7.8 billion to approximately $6.5 billion for the 8GW wind scenario, a drop of 16.6% in production costs.

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