Group that includes LES sets wind power milestone

Source: By Matt Olberding, Lincoln Journal Star • Posted: Tuesday, November 21, 2017

A regional electric transmission group that includes Nebraska’s three largest electric providers announced that it reached a milestone over the weekend.

The Southwest Power Pool said it hit a point Sunday morning when it was generating more than 50 percent of its energy from wind power, the first time an electric grid operator in North America has hit that mark.
 Southwest, which is based in Little Rock, Arkansas, said wind was providing 52.1 percent of its power generation load at 4:30 a.m. on Sunday. It had previously set the North American record of 49.2 percent in April 2016.

Southwest said in a news release that its installed wind-generation capacity increased in 2016 alone by more than one-third — up from 12 gigawatts to more than 16, and its maximum simultaneous wind generation peak rose from 9,948 megawatts in 2015 to 12,336 in early 2016.

Currently, 15 percent of Southwest’s electricity generating capacity comes from wind, ranking it as the third-biggest source behind coal and gas.

“Ten years ago, we thought hitting even a 25 percent wind-penetration level would be extremely challenging, and any more than that would pose serious threats to reliability,” Vice President of Operations Bruce Rew said in the news release. “Now we have the ability to reliably manage greater than 50 percent wind penetration.”

The Southwest Power Pool operates 60,000 miles of power grid across 14 states, including Nebraska. Lincoln Electric System, Nebraska Public Power District and Omaha Public Power District all joined the group in 2008.