Electricity supplies could be short due to high demand, and wind won’t help much

The regional electric grid operator, the Midcontinent Independent Systems Operator (MISO), has issued three alerts suggesting electricity supplies could be tight today due to high electricity demand. The situation will not be helped by the fact that wind turbines are forecast to produce very little electricity when the power is needed most.

The graph below shows data from MISO’s real-time display pages on its website. As you can see, wind generation is forecast to fall as the demand for electricity rises, which presents challenges for keeping the lights and air conditioning running.

Wind advocates will likely argue that all types of power plants experience problems during hot weather, and this is true. Coal, natural gas and nuclear plants operate less efficiently when temperatures are high, but the loss in generation from heat in these power plants is minuscule compared to the loss of wind electricity generation expected to occur today.

The graph below shows the capacity factor of wind turbines compared to the percentage of the forecast peak electricity demand. When electricity demand is expected to be highest (100 percent of the forecast peak), wind power is expected to produce just 14.8 percent of its potential output.

Wind turbines have a nasty habit of disappearing when electricity is needed most. Thankfully, the regional grid still has enough reliable coal, natural gas and nuclear power plants to provide uninterrupted electricity, even during the hottest days.

However, the composition of the grid is rapidly changing as companies like Xcel Energy unwisely rush to shut down their coal plants before the end of their useful lifetimes. Days like today will be much more dangerous if these plans come to fruition, which is why Center of the American Experiment is fighting for grid reliability at the Minnesota Public Utilities Commission.

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