No money, no coal plants, and fewer wind projects create concerns about grid reliability

Posted on November 19, 2008. Filed under: General |

From an Associated Press article by in the International Herald Tribune:

GREAT FALLS, Montana: As workers scramble to build an $800 million coal-fired power plant on a patch of farmland here, a crisis that began on faraway Wall Street threatens to stretch America’s power supplies to the brink — driving up prices and laying the stage for future shortages.

The power industry is under extraordinary financial pressure just five years after North America suffered its worst blackout ever, when rolling outages turned out the lights on 50 million people. Even before the extent of the global credit crisis was fully known, the nation’s largest power providers warned of even bigger blackouts to come with the power grid under ever growing strain.

The industry has faced criticism for blackouts, but it also faces opposition to new new plants and stringing new power lines.

With the economy teetering toward recession, it may face its toughest obstacle yet.

If credit woes put the brakes on scores of proposed plants, observers say a shift to other, more expensive fuels could end up soaking customers. The alternative is more frequent and potentially extended outages.

Couple the article above with The Impact Of The Slowdown In Construction Of Wind Generation, an article by Jude Clemente posted on the

The last few months have seen a significant stalling in plans and proposals to build new wind-based power generation. These delays and cancellations have significant implications for two important components of American energy: (1) the Renewable Portfolio Standards (RPSs) that have been passed in many states and (2) the reliability of the North American electric grid.

In the first case, the ability of respective states to meet their RPS is increasingly in doubt. In the second case, the emerging shortfall in projected wind generation has very real implications for power reliability given the fact that so many coal plants have been canceled and natural gas prices remain highly volatile.

The 2008 report of the North American Electric Reliability Corporation (NERC) takes a relatively optimistic view of the amount of wind generation going forward. Increasing delays and cancellations in wind projects, however, necessitates a second look as to the contribution wind can really be expected to make over the next decade. Natural gas and coal will have to carry the burden of incremental electricity demand. NERC’s 2007 report warned about an over dependence on natural gas generation and the danger of relying on liquefied natural gas imports.

Now, in a special report released in early November, NERC has warned that “increased dependence on natural gas as a fuel for electric generation may impact reliability.” New coal plants have been cancelled or deferred across the nation. As will be discussed here, new wind-based power generation is experiencing delays and cancellations. As NERC’s analyses demonstrate, all of these factors are converging to raise serious questions relating to the reliability of America’s electric power system over the next decade.


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