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January 16, 2004

Study: New York could absorb 3,300 MW of wind power, but with less benefit in periods of peak demand

If it adopts extensive new technical requirements affecting how wind power is moved onto the state's electricity transmission grid, New York State could safely add about 3,300 megawatts of new wind-powered electric generating capacity, a preliminary report on the potential of wind generation in New York said.

But the study also concluded that New York has little opportunity to add wind generation downstate, where new capacity is needed the most, and that the value of wind power is reduced on summer afternoons and evenings, when it is needed the most. This suggests that even this major infusion of wind generation would provide relatively little reliability value, the study added.

The report did not estimate either the costs of the new requirements or the likely costs of the wind-generating power.

The report, "The Effects of Integrating Wind Power on Transmission System Planning, Reliability, and Operations," adds to the ongoing debate over whether New Yorkers should be require to buy electricity from renewable sources. It was commissioned by the New York State Energy Research and Development Authority and the New York Independent System Operator (NYISO). The report, which was released Jan. 8, was prepared by GE Power Systems Energy Consulting.

Few of the 101 potential wind-farm sites identified in the study are downstate, where concerns about current generating capacity are most acute and where transmission challenges already make it difficult to import power produced elsewhere. In fact, the study said, 85 percent of the sites are west of the "Central East Interface" on New York's power grid.

"Wind generation patterns within New York State demonstrate much lower levels of output in the summertime, and within the day, they tend to peak in the morning, with afternoon and evening outputs roughly half of the morning levels," the report said.

"This provides little reliability value to a system that typically experiences its greatest need for capacity in late afternoon and early evening in the summer."

The report also emphasized that a new commitment to 3,300 megawatts of wind power would require New York to adopt extensive new technical requirements affecting how wind power is moved onto the state's power grid. Adapting these requirements is necessary to avoid adverse effects on the planning, operations, and reliability of the state's bulk power system, the report added.

New wind generating capacity of 3,300 megawatts would add about 9 percent to the state's current installed capacity, which was 36,527 MW in the summer of 2003, according to the NYISO.

The preliminary report was intended to assess the effects of large-scale wind generation on the reliability of the New York State Bulk Power System. The assessment was based on:

The study weighed the experiences of several regions around the world that rely substantially on wind power and concluded that:

The next phase of the study will involve a detailed system-performance evaluation of the effects of large-scale wind generation on New York's bulk power systems. The report is expected to include recommendations for any needed modifications to existing procedures and guidelines to reliably accommodate new wind generation.

The second phase of the study is expected late in 2004.

The Business Council has long opposed government mandates that would require businesses and individuals to buy their energy from specific sources.

The debate over the future of wind generation in New York intensified after Governor George Pataki proposed such a mandate, the "renewable portfolio standard" (RPS), in 2003. The Governor directed the state Public Service Commission (PSC) to develop a standard that would require New York's businesses and consumers to buy at least 25 percent of their electricity from "renewable energy resources" such as solar power, wind, and fuel cells by 2013.

The Business Council has opposed a mandatory RPS, arguing that a government requirement that custumers buy electricity from costly renewable sources would inevitably drive costs up and could needlessly lock New York State into high energy prices. New York's notorious "six-cent law" had precisely that effect. That 1981 law, which was partially repealed in 1992, fixed prices of electricity in many long-term contracts between utilities and generators at no lower than six cents per kilowatt-hour. This eventually required New York's businesses and consumers to pay inflated costs when the cost of generation fell well below six cents per kilowatt-hour.

Wind-generated electricity generally costs more than electricity from traditional sources, and even before the new report there was ample evidence that wind power in New York would offer little help in the parts of the state that need new generation the most and during the summer, when demand is at its peak.