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Southwest Power Pool(SPP) Grid Continues Move from Coal to Wind

image credit: SPP Annual report
Joe Deely's picture
Partner Deely Group

Involved with high-tech for last 30 years. Interested in energy.

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  • May 20, 2020

The Southwest Power Pool recently released their annual report for 2019.

The results show that wind generation continues to make steady progress in SPP and will soon become the No 1 fuel type in the region.  Below is the fuel share chart from pg 9 of the report.

So how does this compare to previous years? I have included the results from the last decade in the chart below. 

Note: coal has dropped by a share of 63% in 2011 to 35% in 2019.  This has occurred while NG share has remained relatively constant in the mid 20s. Meanwhile Wind has increased from 7% in 2011 ro 27% in 2019.

The next question would be - when will wind surpass coal and become the No. 1 source of electricity for SPP?

There is a chance that could happen this year - 2020. SPP also recently released their Winter of 2020 quarterly report.  For this quarter, wind was indeed the Number 1 source of generation with a 31% share. Coal was in 2nd with a 30% share and NG trailed in 3rd with a 28% share.

What will the grid look like by the end of the 20s?

By looking at the interconnection queue we can see which types of new generation will be built in the coming years.

Plenty of more wind will be installed in the SPP region in the coming years. Plus, we have a large amount of solar and storage planned. How much NG? Almost zero. Obviously no new nuclear either.

We can expect coal to drop to below a 10% share on the SPP grid this decade as wind continues to increase while solar and storage gain a foothold in SPP.  Nat Gas and nuclear will remain flat.

Matt Chester's picture
Matt Chester on May 20, 2020

Interesting to see solar is not much of a blip yet, but the queue shows solar coming on strong in the coming years. Why the late start to solar in SPP?

Joe Deely's picture
Joe Deely on May 21, 2020

Good question- maybe because wind was a better investmentover the last decade?

Dudley McFadden's picture
Dudley McFadden on May 26, 2020

It would be interesting to speculate on what the Energy Production by Fuel Type chart would look like by the end of the 20s.  Coal may decline to 10% but natural gas will be filling in behind it, won't it?

Joe Deely's picture
Joe Deely on May 26, 2020

It would be interesting to speculate on what the Energy Production by Fuel Type chart would look like by the end of the 20s.  Coal may decline to 10% but natural gas will be filling in behind it, won't it?

Why do you think NG would be filling in behind it?

Here's my thinking:

As you can see from chart above there is only 175 MW of NG in interconnection queue. So that means any potential future NGCC plants woud be at least 3-4 years out. Do you have info on plans for NG in SPP that are not in queue yet?

Below are capacity numbers from SPP 2018 annual report.  Note that while about 400MW of NG was added in last couple of years, there was also about 1.2 GW of simple-cycle NG retirements. So overall NG capacity on SPP declned.


Also here is age chart of SPP plants from that same 2018 report


Looks like about 13 GW of the NG capacity is already 40+ years old. Could actually be more NG retirements in next few years.

So, I think at least for the short-term almost all the declining coal generation is gonna be replaced by wind with smaller amounts being replaced by solar/storage and maybe some additional NG generation.


Dudley McFadden's picture
Dudley McFadden on May 27, 2020

OK, interesting point about 1,200 MW of simple-cycle NG retirements.  That is a lot of firm capacity to replace with wind, but sounds like the momentum for wind is building.  I'm concerned reliable winter solar opportunity around SPP is limited without monthly storage.

Joe Deely's picture
Thank Joe for the Post!
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