Late in the evening on February 18th, wind energy provided more energy to the Southwest Power Pool (SPP) electric grid than coal, natural gas or nuclear power. At roughly 11PM, wind power generated nearly 40% of all the electricity in the SPP region, which includes Nebraska, Kansas, Oklahoma and portions of New Mexico, Texas, Arkansas and Louisiana. Meanwhile, the region received the remainder of its electricity from coal (37%), natural gas (11%), nuclear (10%) and hydro power (2%). That's right: renewable energy provided more energy than either fossil fuels or nuclear reactors.
This isn't the first time high levels of wind energy have provided power to SPP. Just this past November, SPP recorded a peak of over 9,000 megawatts of wind power generation - at that time, wind power provided 38.3% of the regional transmission organization's (RTO) energy. The peak on February 15th was bigger, both in penetration and total megawatts. At one point, more than 10,000 megawatts of wind power were churning out energy for the RTO. Lower evening electric demand, mixed with exceptionally high winds pushed SPP to 43.9% wind power. In December, Texas recorded a peak for wind power output that provided nearly 45% of electricity within the Electric Reliability Council of Texas (ERCOT) grid.
Nothing broke. The system didn't crash. Everyone still had electricity when they flipped a switch. Wind power delivered and the sky didn't fall. The Department of Energy published a study last year indicating the country could receive 30% or more of its electricity from wind farms by 2035, and SPP just provided additional evidence that the goal is realistic. Several utilities across the Southeast, including Alabama Power, Georgia Power, Gulf Power and the Tennessee Valley Authority plan to receive or are already receiving some wind power from the SPP region. But it's clear utilities can, and should, incorporate significantly more wind power into their portfolios.