Wind Integration Study

Nebraska continues to increase its wind energy generation

Generating electricity from the wind can help the environment, but like all forms of electricity generation, there are some other issues to consider.

Windpower is an intermittent resource. That is, unlike coal or nuclear power plants, windpower plants can’t operate every hour of every day. Sometimes they operate best in the middle of the night, when the wind is blowing but the demand for electricity is low.

An additional consideration for windpower in Nebraska is that the areas with the best-quality resource (i.e., are windiest) are located far away from where the electricity is needed. That means transmission lines are needed to connect the wind generators to the state’s transmission network.

Integrating large amounts of wind energy into Nebraska's existing electric system carries costs

Recently, members of the NPA worked with the National Renewable Energy Laboratory, wind-energy experts, vendors and other stakeholders in a year-long study to analyze how adding large amounts of wind energy to the state’s electric system would affect its operations and its costs.

Operating sustainably means creating positive conditions for future generations

One of the conclusions of the Wind Integration Study was that wholesale electricity costs would rise by about 10% if the wind energy accounted for 10% of the state’s electricity by 2018. Increasing the proportion of wind energy to 20% of the state’s electricity by then would increase costs about 20%.

In either scenario, significant additions to region’s transmission system, beyond what is already on the drawing board, would be necessary to bring wind energy to customers and ensure the reliable operation of the transmission system. Transmission investments of about $700 million (measured in 2018 dollars) would be needed if wind energy makes up 10% of the state’s electricity by that date. Outlays of over $11 billion would be needed if Nebraska decided to have wind account for 20% of its electricity.

Like all studies, the NPA Wind Integration Study is based on a number of assumptions. Windpower is a particularly dynamic business. The cost to build new wind generation is declining, though it is still about twice the cost of building a traditional coal-fired generator. But as utilities in and out of Nebraska add new windpower to their electric systems, the costs and complexities of operating those system increases.

Wind farms needs transmission lines to bring electricity to customers

Nebraska’s locally owned utilities are committed to providing reliable, low-cost electric service in ways that protect the environment. There are significant costs – financial and operational – involved with greatly expanding the use of wind energy in our state. Mindful of these issues, Nebraska’s two largest utilities – Omaha Public Power District (OPPD) and Nebraska Public Power District (NPPD) have adopted a voluntary goal of having windpower account for 10% of their electricity by 2020.

We invite you to review the final report of the Wind Integration Study, the news release that accompanied its release, and the presentation developed for the NPA Board of Directors.