A level playing field for wind

A decision announced today by the Midwest Independent Transmission System Operator (MISO) could change the economics of wind power in the region.

MISO controls power supplies to the grid, which serves most of the Midwest as well as Manitoba, through spot markets at intervals as short as five minutes. MISO determines demand, and power companies bid to supply the energy.

In the past, if various generating sources were pushing too much power to the grid, wind farms, which are easiest to switch on and off, would typically be shut down, even if they were the least expensive source of energy. This is known as curtailment (a practice that is the subject of some controversy in the Northwest).

That’s bad news for wind farm operators, because they can’t make money if they’re not generating power, and the industry has long complained the practice puts them at an unfair disadvantage.

But wind farms will now be designated as Dispatchable Intermittent Resources, which basically gives them equal standing to other power sources when MISO dispatches energy via the real-time spot market. According to a 2010 NREL report, the New York ISO is the only other U.S. grid operator to put wind generators on an equal footing.

In a news release, Joe Gardner, a spokesman for MISO, says the move “enhances systemwide operational and market efficiency.”

Photo by Roland Peschetz via Creative Commons

5 thoughts on “A level playing field for wind

  1. Wind power producers should have been required to collect the wind when it blows and release a constant amount of electricity continually. That is a level playing field. All other energy sources are now at a disadvantage.

  2. That doesn’t make any sense. Demand is always fluctuating, so requiring constant output from all sources would create a whole lot of inefficiency.

  3. This is indeed very good news – it’s a step in the right direction toward equal interconnection and access to the energy markets; however, when will we see true equality and access?

    There is plenty of room for improvement by removing all subsidies for any form of energy production.

    But as long as there are state-regluated utility monopolies, there should be policies in effect that afford equal treatment to other energy producers, especially for clean distributed renewable energy. This would most easily be accomplished through the use of a state-wide feed-in tariff law which would allow everybody to interconnect to the grid as a matter of “right” or technically privilege (like driving driving on the freeway); to be contracturally entitled to payment for the energy by the utility for the production of distributed energy based upon a cost plus return on investment model (just as any state regulated utility monopoly enjoys) and that payment for any energy only occurs after the same has actually been delivered to the grid – just good old fashion qui pro quo. Wow!! What novel ideas: Equity, Transparency and Free Market Economics – they might make a comeback yet!

  4. I applaud the decision to allow what we know is the most efficient method of electricity production. What is needed is a system to enable users who can schedule their demand to meet the available power. Those loads that can’t flex will bear the higher costs of the constant base load power. Society will derive real efficiencies then.

    I need to comment on the level playing field: Large scale coal and nuclear plants pay a low price for their disproportionate use of water and air resources to produce their power. Currently there is no method of reflecting this in their costs, it borne by society in general. When this accounting becomes possible, then we’ll have a level playing field.