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Estimating the value of additional wind and transmission capacity in the rocky mountain west

Godby, Robert and Torell, Greg and Coupal, Roger (2013): Estimating the value of additional wind and transmission capacity in the rocky mountain west. Forthcoming in: Resource and Energy Economics

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Abstract

The expansion of wind-generation in the United States poses significant challenges to policy-makers, particularly because wind’s intermittency and unpredictability can exacerbate problems of congestion on a transmission constrained grid. Understanding these issues is necessary if optimal development of wind energy and transmission is to occur. This paper applies a model that integrates the special concerns of electricity generation to empirically consider the challenges of developing wind resources in the Rocky Mountain region of the United States. Given the lack the high frequency data needed to address the special problems of intermittency and congestion, our solution is to create a dispatch model of the region and to use simulations to generate the necessary data, then use this data to understand the development patterns that have occurred as wind resources have been developed.

Our results indicate that the price effects caused by changes in power output at intermittent sources are strongly dependent on supply conditions and the presence of market distortions caused by transmission constraints. Peculiarities inherent in electric grid operation can cause system responses that are not always intuitive. The distribution of the rents accruing to wind generation, particularly in unexpectedly windy periods are strongly dependent on the allocation of transmission rights when congestion occurs, which impacts potential returns to developing wind resources. Incidents of congestion depend on the pace of development of wind and transmission capacity. Not accounting for such distortions may cause new development to worsen market outcomes if mistaken estimates of benefits or costs lead to sub-optimal development of wind and transmission facilities.

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