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Wind energy savings larger than expected

Published: October 6, 2012
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In response to Ted Rado (Your Views, Sept. 23), the U.S. and Europe have been able to reliably add large amounts of wind power to the grid without adding any commercial-scale energy storage. Last year, Iowa and South Dakota got about 20 percent of their electricity from wind energy. At times, the main Colorado utility has obtained more than 55 percent of its electricity from wind — all without adding any new energy storage.

Numerous peer-reviewed studies conducted by grid operators have concluded that wind energy can provide more than 30 percent of our electricity without any need for energy storage. This is possible because there are sources of flexibility that are already present on the electric grid. Every day, grid operators constantly accommodate variability in electricity demand and supply by increasing and decreasing the output of flexible power plants. In fact, it's less costly for grid operators to accommodate the gradual, predictable changes in wind output than to accommodate the abrupt failure of large fossil and nuclear power plants.

Rado acknowledges this point when he writes that “utility companies have excess capacity to allow power plants to be shut down for maintenance.” All government data and all analyses by independent grid operators document that wind energy achieves fossil fuel and pollution savings as large, or larger, than expected.

Susan Sloan, Washington, D.C.

Sloan is director of state relations at the American Wind Energy Association.