US wind generation dropped in 2023

Despite adding over 6 GW on new wind generation capacity, actual generation dropped by more than 9,000 GWh.
https://www.eia.gov/todayinenergy/detail.php?id=61943
DB2
Blow winds, and crack your cheeks! rage! blow!
~ King Lear

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From the EIA report:
“Slower wind speeds than normal affected wind generation in 2023, especially during the first half of the year when wind generation dropped by 14% compared with the same period in 2022.”

Picture if that ‘wind drought’ lasted the entire year, especially as wind penetration increases in our electricity supply. That’s certainly possible.

DB2

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This is just one of the reasons that you need a variety of sources for a robust power supply. You need things like solar, wind, geothermal etc for low fuel costs. You need nuclear etc for base load. And you need natural gas for quick dispatch-able load. And you can add banks of batteries to smooth things out and gain even more overall efficiency. And you need a modernized grid to keep that efficiency up.

We keep having discussions here about “one versus the other”, and that’s an absurd way of approaching the issue of power generation.

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Agreed. There is also a lack of reality checks in future energy planning. Case in point – the state of New York which put out plans in 2022. They are planning to build massive amounts of off-shore wind – 9GW by '35 and 18GW by '50 – and we see they are already running into problems.

Back to variability of wind. Offshore winds are generally stronger and more consistent than onshore winds. However, there are lulls (defined in a recent New York State Reliability Corporation report as wind power output that falls to just 5 to 20% of potential output). The report looked at 21 years of wind data.

Lulls lasting 24 hours or more occur about 30 times per year, with lulls of 48 hours or more happening about seven times annually and lulls of 72 hours or more happening about three times per year.

Wind lulls of up to 86 hours (about three and a half days) with an average of only five percent of potential output were observed at all seven study sites.

These are huge swings. Losing 8GW is a bit like having eight nuclear power plants go off line simultaneously.

DB2

As mentioned in DB2’s link, the average wind power utilization rate, or capacity factor, was unusually low last year. Coincidentally, the solar PV capacity factor was also lower than usual last year.

From the link here, below are the recent solar PV and wind capacity factors…

US capacity factors, percent
      SolarPV   Wind
2019   24.3%    34.4%
2020   24.2     35.3
2021   24.4     34.4
2022   24.4     35.9
2023   23.3     33.5

Not only was the wind calmer than usual, but it was apparently more cloudy than usual, too. However, the lower solar capacity factor did not result in lower overall solar generation, because much more solar capacity was added.

It was only one year, but I wonder how much of these declines in solar and wind capacity factors have to do with installing new systems in less than optimal locations? New wind farms being built in areas where it isn’t so windy, and solar installations being built in northern and more cloudy areas?

  • Pete
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Here is one way to solve the problem of a future grid with potentially unreliable power:

https://www.wsj.com/business/energy-oil/battery-powered-stoves-dryers-water-heaters-24e49030?st=hxg833d42nl0okp&reflink=desktopwebshare_permalink

(WSJ gift link)

It does seem a bit extreme…putting batteries in all your appliances (or at least some of them).
Seems like a whole house battery would be a better idea.

Mike

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I think a reliable grid is even a better idea.

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The consensus among power companies seems to be they will build a reliable grid, when the government pays them to do it.

Steve

As an avid bicyclist, my anecdata tells me that the winds have been increasing in speed as I have increased in age and have the psychic ability to change direction so I have headwinds for most of my ride.

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Exactly.

Going further, we have interconnected grids. So if one area is having low generation from something like wind or solar, other areas can help make up that shortfall - possibly from those same types of generation. Winds might be calm off of Long Island, but still blowing in Maine and North Carolina.

Some regions may have more of a particular type of generation simply because that is what their geography dictates.

–Peter

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I’d be curious to pair those figures with the annual curtailment figures - how much electricity wasn’t generated because there was insufficient demand (or excess production, depending on your point of view) at any particular moment.

And while those figures vary a bit, it seems they are still within a range that can be planned for.

–Peter

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Getting back to New York, at this point it is not clear what they are planning for backup. Hydro and nuclear are already committed for regular power needs, and renewables are not dispatchable.

That leaves massive amounts of storage, either battery or hydrogen based. The cost for enough batteries to cover several days demand (hundreds of thousands of MWh) would be hundreds of billions of dollars. Hydrogen is still experimental and certainly not on commercial scale. Maybe in the future? They say hope is not a plan.

The New York Climate Action Council put out a scoping plan at the end of 2022. In it they admit that the state will need energy storage sufficient for “days, weeks, and even longer” to maintain reliability (p 253).

DB2