Wind ahead of nuclear and coal for the first time… but lags far behind gas

It’s a new snub from wind power’s critics at a time when the two candidates for the French presidential election want to curb the construction of new parks in the country – even dismantle the existing ones, as mandated by Marine Le Pen. Because while the cost of these blade giants has plummeted in a decade, as the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) recently reminded us, their production levels in some countries are now flirting with these more traditional energy sources…even going so far as to surpass them.

Or at least briefly. This is the first time wind turbines in the United States have delivered more electricity in one day than coal or nuclear power, the American Energy Information Agency (EIA) reported on Thursday. Specifically, as of Tuesday, March 29, they generated a total of 2,017 gigawatt hours (GWh) of electricity, while the nuclear produced 1,989 GWh and the coal 1,822 GWh. This is an iconic move because if wind power across the Atlantic had at times surpassed Black Rock or nuclear reactors, it had never surpassed both simultaneously on a daily scale.

All conditions have been met

It must be said that gusts swept across the country that day: the Southwest Power Pool (SPP), which notably includes regions of Oklahoma, Kansas, Nebraska and Dakota, and the Electric Reliability Council of Texas (ERCOT), where many Wind turbines installed had both reported new wind penetration records.

At the same time, spring electricity consumption tended to be lower, with some coal and nuclear power plants running slower as planned, and some being shut down for scheduled maintenance.

In addition, ” On days when weather conditions cause greater wind power generation, competing coal and natural gas generators are often asked to cut production to allow total supply to meet demand says the EIA on its website. Enough to let wind turbines steal the show for at least a few hours.

If conditions were exceptional that day, such a phenomenon could still occur. more often how wind capacity is being built, according to Tyler Jubert, energy market analyst at S&P Global. In fact, the American market for wind power is very promising, as President Joe Biden’s administration is trying to make up ground lost in the past term with no fewer than 100 planned projects. According to EIA forecasts, a further 7.6 gigawatts (GW) will go online this year alone.

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The degree of utilization of wind power remains low

that remains” it is not certain that this performance will be repeated regularly in the short term “, tempers the EIA. And for good reason, unlike nuclear or hydrocarbon power plants, the production of these giant shovels remains naturally intermittent and uncontrollable, i.e. dependent on the weather. As proof: The total theoretical capacity of energy that wind turbines can produce has already exceeded that of nuclear reactors since September 2019, but their actual contribution to the grid is still smaller, barring certain events.

No wonder, because their degree of utilization, i.e. the average operational utilization, did not exceed 35% in 2021, while that of nuclear power plants was 93% according to the EIA. The American authority does not expect that the monthly production of wind turbines ” Exceeds coal or nuclear generation for any month in 2022 or 2023 “.

In addition, power generation from fossil gas, which is mainly produced by hydraulic fracturing on the other side of the Atlantic, remained the main source of electricity on March 29 with 3,287 GWh feeding into the grid – so let’s say more than 1,000 GWh – according to the Hourly Electric Grid Monitor the EIA more than wind. While wind power is gaining a place of choice in America’s power mix, it’s nowhere near displacing fossil fuels, which still largely dominate.

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