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Report: New York can handle way more wind

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The people that operate New York's power grid say, with a few upgrades, the state can pipe more wind power around the state: more than five times more.

The independent non-profit corporation that manages New York’s electric system released a report yesterday saying that the Empire State could more than quintuple the amount of wind energy pulsing through its grid.

Doing so won’t be without its challenges, the report says. But most of the study’s findings are positive for future wind development in the state.

The 120-page New York Independent System Operator (NYISO) report [PDF] looked at the proposed expansion of the state’s wind power capacity. Currently, New York wind turbines generate 1,275 megawatts of electricity. The report examined the likely scenario of wind accounting for 8,000 megawatts by 2018.

Some of the biggest hurdles highlighted in the report stem from the seemingly elemental fact that wind blows differently at different times of day.

Wind generation presents challenges to system operators due to the variability of output, and the fact that wind energy tends to increase much later in the day when power use is declining and decline in the morning when power use is increasing.

That basically means the grid always has to have a backup source of power ready to go. Those sources are primarily carbon-intensive, which diminishes some of the production cost savings as well as some of the environmental benefits.

Still, the report concludes pretty forcefully that an expanded role of wind power in the state’s energy mix will be a good thing.

The primary finding of the study is that wind generation can supply reliable clean energy at a very low cost of production to the New York power grid. This energy results in significant savings in overall system production costs, reductions in “greenhouse” gases such as CO2 and other emissions such as NOx and SO2 as well an overall reduction in wholesale electricity prices.

If the 2018 scenario is good news, it may be fair to ask if it’s good enough.

To pick on CO2 alone, the report found that upping the amount of wind energy to 8,000 megawatts, dropped the power system’s CO2 emissions by 8.5 percent. That's a reduction of about 4.45 metric tons, or the equivalent of removing one coal-fired power plant from the grid.

The report is long and pretty comprehensive, but it didn’t cover everything. By its own account, the study did not conduct “a full economic evaluation of the costs and benefits of wind generation.”

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WXXI/Finger Lakes reporter for the Innovation Trail.
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