New results from EIA show that installed wind electric generating capacity in the United States surpassed conventional hydroelectric generating capacity, long the nation’s largest source of renewable electricity, after 8,727 megawatts (MW) of new wind capacity came online in 2016. However, given the hydro fleet’s higher average capacity factors and the above-normal precipitation on the West Coast so far this year, hydro generation will likely once again exceed wind generation in 2017.
The value of solutions that facilitate better integration of intermittent sources onto the grid becomes clear when we look at it through a utility dispatcher’s eyes, per EIA’s related discussion:
“For electricity reliability planning purposes, hydro and wind capacity are reduced (or derated) when estimating their expected contributions to meet projected peak-period electricity demand. Hydro capacity is generally derated to a much lesser degree than wind capacity. The North American Electric Reliability Corporation’s (NERC’s) latest summer reliability assessment shows the difference between the nameplate capacity and the expected on-peak capacity for variable renewable sources (wind, solar, and hydro) in each region. In both SPP and the PJM Interconnection electric system, which covers a highly populated area of Mid-Atlantic, Southern, and Midwestern states, hydro provides more expected on-peak capacity than wind even though there is about twice as much installed wind capacity as hydro capacity in both regions.