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Wind Power Provides Half of the Electricity on a US Grid for the First-Time Ever

Benjamin Roussey's picture
Freelance Writer, Arizona

Benjamin Roussey is from Sacramento, CA but now lives in Arizona. His bachelor’s degree is from CSUS (1999) where he was on a baseball pitching scholarship and he completed 4 years in the US...

  • Member since 2016
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  • Mar 18, 2017

Wind power has managed to power more than 50 percent of the total electrical demand for a brief period just recently, according to fourteen-state SPP (Southwest Power Pool). This is the first time that something like this has ever happened on any of the North American power grids. That includes Canada!

Power Flow

SPP is the one that coordinates the flow of all electricity through the high voltage power lines from North Dakota and Montana all the way to Texas, Louisiana, and New Mexico.

Wind power in this region has grown quite substantially in the last few years to more than 16,000 MW which is far more than then 400 MW which it was at during the early 2000s. It is expected to continue to grow at this rate in the future as well. Just so you understand the significance of this, one megawatt is able to power close to one thousand homes with ease.

The VP of Operations at SPP, Bruce Rew issued a statement after this achievement saying that around 10 years ago, they believed that if they could even hit 25 percent as far as wind-penetration is concerned, they would be extremely happy.

Anything more than that would result in a very serious threat to their reliability. But today, they have the ability to manage more than 50 percent of the electricity needed due to wind generation. This is not even where they set their ceiling.

Wind Power

Wind power had managed to briefly reach 52.1 percent at 4:30 am on Sunday which is the new record now. This milestone is almost 3 percent more than the previous record which was at 49.2 percent. Wind penetration is basically the measure of the total load which is served by the wind at all given times.

Currently, wind is considered the third largest source of electricity generation in the entire SPP region. It makes up for around 15 percent of the total capacity as of 2016. It is behind coal and gas as of now. This is the only time when wind was able to be more than 50 percent for a brief period of time as far as sources of electric power on US grids is concerned.

Coal could be making a comeback though because the irrational punishment that the Obama administration unleashed on them will be lifted by the amazing and pro-growth Trump team. On top of this, wind power is highly subsidized which could be ending soon so there is a level playing field and true economics can be displayed.

Rew said that when they had a generation footprint which was as large as theirs is, even if the wind was to stop blowing in the Great Plains, they have enough resources available to them in the Southwest and Midwest to cover up these sudden deficits. That is impressive!


Out of the 11 states which have received more than 10 percent of their total electricity from wind during 2015, the top 5 states are Iowa which received 31 percent, South Dakota which received 25 percent, Kansas which received 24 percent, Oklahoma which received 18 percent, and North Dakota which also received 18 percent. All of these states are located on the SPP grid at least in part according to the information provided by the US EIA.

Some of the largest wind farms on the grid are currently being operated by EDP Energias de Portugal SA, NextEra Energy Inc., BP Plc, Sempra Energy, and Southern Co.

This is very impressive but if they were not subsidized, this could not be occurring. This is corporate welfare. Should the government be choosing one business over another? Electricity rates under the Obama administration increased for Americans. Most Americans would probably not agree to any subsidies if they knew they would have to pay more for it. Americans are taxed enough as it is! Americans wants lower monthly bills as well, not higher ones.

Davis Swan's picture
Davis Swan on Mar 19, 2017

This is yet another hyperbolic statement that implies that the current approach to the development of wind generation is working well and can be expanded without causing problems.  That is completely untrue. 

The Southwest Power Pool is unique in several respects.  It has within its geographic area the very best wind resources in the continental U.S.A. (

It is also one of the smallest grids in the U.S. with recent peak demand of 37 GW vs. total U.S. peak demand of more than 780 GW.

The high penetration rate of 52% wind on the SPP took place for only a few minutes.  The total capacity of 18 GW of wind on that grid produced only an average of 6 GW (which is he best capacity factor to be found in the U.S.) normally about 20% of total demand.  If you read the SPP wind integration study you will find that it concludes that higher temporary penetrations of wind can be accomodated by juggling generation assets.  That is is to say that wind won't kill the grid.  But neither that study nor the "State of the Grid" reports imply that the grid could ever rely upon wind generation.  In fact, fossil fuel continues to dominate the generation on the SPP "coal and gas resources typically account for 80-90% of offered capacity during peak hours".  

Wind generation displaces some fossil fuel generation when winds are strong.  That is a good thing.  But to suggest that wind can reliably be counted on to supply any percentage of total generation during a period of peak demand is nonsense.  All fossil fuel generation has to be maintained for calm nights, running as "spinning reserves" or through the use of inefficient natural gas peaker plants.

The only way wind will be anything more than a nuisance to utilities is for economical energy storage to be developed.  That should be the focus of Research and Development funding and other regulatory and government financial support.  The need for energy storage should be mentioned prominently in every discussion of wind.  See

Jim Stack's picture
Jim Stack on Mar 22, 2017

How much of that Clean Wind power can Off Peak and was dumped? If they would add and use storage like California is with their 80 Mwatt Tesla Power Pack system would we be able to use all that power at the right time. Advanced battery storage is the real answer.

Benjamin Roussey's picture
Thank Benjamin for the Post!
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