The Cost of Transmission for Wind Energy: A Review of Transmission Planning Studies

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The rapid development of wind power that the United States has experienced over the last several years has been coupled with a growing concern that wind development will require substantial additions to the nation's transmission infrastructure. Transmission is particularly important for wind power due to the locational dependence of wind resources, the relatively low capacity factor of wind plants, and the mismatch between the short lead time to build a new wind project and the longer lead time often needed to plan, permit, and construct transmission. It is clear that institutional issues related to transmission planning, siting, and cost allocation ... continued below

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Mills, Andrew D.; Wiser, Ryan & Porter, Kevin February 2, 2009.

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Description

The rapid development of wind power that the United States has experienced over the last several years has been coupled with a growing concern that wind development will require substantial additions to the nation's transmission infrastructure. Transmission is particularly important for wind power due to the locational dependence of wind resources, the relatively low capacity factor of wind plants, and the mismatch between the short lead time to build a new wind project and the longer lead time often needed to plan, permit, and construct transmission. It is clear that institutional issues related to transmission planning, siting, and cost allocation will pose major obstacles to accelerated wind power deployment, but also of concern is the potential cost of this infrastructure build out. Simply put, how much extra cost will society bear to deliver wind power to load centers? Without an answer to this question, there can be no consensus on whether or not the cost of developing transmission for wind will be a major barrier to further wind deployment, or whether the institutional barriers to transmission expansion are likely to be of more immediate concern. In this report, we review a sample of 40 detailed transmission studies that have included wind power. These studies cover a broad geographic area, and were completed from 2001-2008. Our primary goal in reviewing these studies is to develop a better understanding of the transmission costs needed to access growing quantities of wind generation. A secondary goal is to gain a better appreciation of the differences in transmission planning approaches in order to identify those methodologies that seem most able to estimate the incremental transmission costs associated with wind development. Finally, we hope that the resulting dataset and discussion might be used to inform the assumptions, methods, and results of higher-level assessment models that are sometimes used to estimate the cost of wind deployment (e.g. NEMS and WinDS). The authors and general location of the 40 detailed transmission studies included in our review are illustrated in Figure ES-1. As discussed in the body of the report, these studies vary considerably in scope, authorship, objectives, methodology, and tools. Though we recognize this diversity and are cognizant that comparisons among these studies are therefore somewhat inappropriate, we nonetheless emphasize such simple comparisons in this report. We do so in order to improve our understanding of the range of transmission costs needed to access greater quantities of wind, and to highlight some of the drivers of those costs. In so doing, we gloss over many important details and differences among the studies in our sample. In emphasizing simple comparisons, our analysis focuses primarily on the unit cost of transmission implied by each of the studies. The unit cost of transmission for wind in $/kW terms on a capacity-weighted basis is estimated by simply dividing the total transmission cost in a study by the total amount of incremental generation capacity (wind and non-wind) modeled in that study. In so doing, this metric assumes that within any individual study all incremental generation capacity imposes transmission costs in proportion to its nameplate capacity rating. The limitations to this approach are described in some detail in the body of the report.

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  • Report No.: LBNL-1471E
  • Grant Number: DE-AC02-05CH11231
  • DOI: 10.2172/948131 | External Link
  • Office of Scientific & Technical Information Report Number: 948131
  • Archival Resource Key: ark:/67531/metadc893626

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  • February 2, 2009

Added to The UNT Digital Library

  • Sept. 27, 2016, 1:39 a.m.

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  • Jan. 4, 2017, 4:58 p.m.

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Mills, Andrew D.; Wiser, Ryan & Porter, Kevin. The Cost of Transmission for Wind Energy: A Review of Transmission Planning Studies, report, February 2, 2009; Berkeley, California. (digital.library.unt.edu/ark:/67531/metadc893626/: accessed September 24, 2017), University of North Texas Libraries, Digital Library, digital.library.unt.edu; crediting UNT Libraries Government Documents Department.