SPP Catches the Wind, No. 1 Source for 2020

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What was Southwest Power Pool’s No. 1 power source for 2020?

The answer is blowing in the wind.

The Little Rock-based nonprofit manager of the electric grid is the first regional transmission organization to have wind as its biggest generation resource, topping power generated by burning coal and natural gas.

The RTO drew 31.3% of its 2020 electricity production from wind, SPP Communications Specialist Meghan Sever told Arkansas Business, compared to 30.9% from burning coal and 26.6% from using natural gas. Nuclear power provided 6.4% of the mix, followed by hydroelectric power at 4.5%.

Sever said SPP calculates production totals on the basis of both production and capacity, but usually references production figures in announcements. “The capacity numbers show more of what the system is capable of producing, not what we have produced at any given time,” she said.

SPP manages the grid across 17 central and western states — many of them in the windy Plains — and provides energy services on a contract basis in both the Eastern and Western Interconnections. The company’s leaders and stakeholders met over most of January to review regional grid operations and markets, transmission planning, membership expansions and other corporate matters.

“Maintaining reliability with this large amount of wind is extraordinary,” Barbara Sugg, SPP’s president and chief executive officer, said in a statement. “To manage this high volume of variable energy, we rely on accurate forecasting, our robust transmission system, a diverse generation mix and our equitable and efficient wholesale energy market.”

In 2019, coal was SPP’s top power source, generating 34.8% of the power transmitted, followed by wind at 27.4% and natural gas at 25.9%.

SPP is on track to launch its Western Energy Imbalance Service market on Monday. “The market is on time and under budget,” Sugg said, adding that eight utilities from the Western Interconnection will participate with SPP in the market.

SPP and the Midcontinent Independent System Operator, also headquartered in Little Rock, have begun a joint planning effort to identify transmission solutions that will benefit both, according to a news release from SPP.