New PJM study finds “no maximum on the amount of wind” energy that can be accommodated

A new study by PJM, the enormous regional transmission organization (RTO) serving 61 million customers in the eastern United States, has some great news for fans of clean energy.

“PJM could maintain reliability with unprecedented levels of wind and solar resources, assuming a portfolio of other resources that provides a sufficient amount of reliability services”

The American Wind Energy Association (AWEA) has a few more highlights from the report.

  • “[P]ortfolios with very large amounts of wind energy, dozens of times greater than the current mix, scored among the highest for reliability and resilience.”
  • “In many of the scenarios PJM evaluated, wind and solar energy reliably provided the majority of electricity.”
  • “PJM found no maximum on the amount of wind it could accommodate, as noted on page 34 in appendix.”
  • “As shown on page 28 of the report, scenarios in which wind provided nearly all of the generation on PJM’s system…maintain reliability at levels comparable to those on today’s power system.”
  • Portfolios with a large amount of wind energy tended to be more resilient because, as PJM noted, wind energy possesses the unique benefit that ‘unavailability rates for wind are likely to decrease’ under a polar vortex event…wind energy output tends to be above average when extreme weather causes output from nearly all other energy sources to fall below expectations. That type of negative correlation with the availability of other energy sources is the key to using portfolio diversity to make the power system more resilient.”
  • “The report notes that technological advances enable wind energy to provide many of the reliability services that conventional power plants provide today.”
  • If anything, the PJM report is not bullish enough on renewable energy growth, as the report “does not account for the potential growth of innovative resources that can provide…energy storage and demand response.” Also, “at times the report falls into the common misconception that conventional power plants provide essential reliability services while renewable resources do not. In reality, wind plants exceed the reliability contributions of conventional power plants in many cases.”

It’s also important to note that the PJM paper “does not analyze market or economic impacts of fuel diversity, nor does it address public policy issues, such as environmental or job impacts of different resource mixes.” Clearly, all of those are major advantages for clean energy over fossil fuels, which means that if those factors had been considered, clean energy would score even higher. But simply looking at reliability and fuel security, clean energy scores very well in the new PJM study, even given its highly conservative assumptions.
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