In Minnesota the findings of Northern States Power that the costs of wind energy are only slightly higher than those of gas-fired generation is encouraging (Windpower Monthly, April 1998). What is puzzling, however, is why a utility with 8000 MW of generating plant claims it wil have system operating problems with a mere 400 MW of wind. Utility studies of wind penetration have concluded that the variability in output from wind does not become an issue until capacity reaches about 20% of maximum demand. Even then the operational penalties are modest -- as discussed in our analysis of future electricity systems, also in last month's issue.
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