Wind Energy Interconnection Standards are Taking Concrete Shape

By Consulting Specifying Engineer Staff February 28, 2006

The variability of wind-turbine output can raise problems for the interconnections between wind farms and electricity grids, and standards have been lacking to address these designs. However, the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission (FERC) issued a ruling in December establishing new interconnection standards for large generators with capacities of 20 MW and above. And new equipment now being tested could help address special considerations that exist when wind resources constitute an especially high proportion of a grid’s overall load.

The new FERC standard—Order No. 661-A—is based on proposals developed in negotiations between the American Wind Energy Assn. and the North American Electric Reliability Council. Specifically, the document covers low-voltage ride-through requirements and power-factor issues along with providing a transition period for currently installed turbines.

Smaller grids often face particular difficulty incorporating wind power’s fluctuating resources into their operations. In general, wind-power contributions cannot total more than 10% to 20% of a grid’s overall generating capacity, according to Karl Stahlkopf, Hawaiian Electric Co. Inc.’s (HECO), chief technology officer. However a new device invented by Stahlkopf and now being tested in HECO’s system helps even out fluctuations by storing energy from gusts before related spikes hit the grid. Stahlkopf says his invention can increase wind-power’s contribution to 50% of connected capacity, which could be a big advantage for remote grids, like those on Hawaii’s islands.

Developers continue to plan new wind-farm installations as standards and technologies mature. Texas is planning to add to its already large wind-turbine inventory with a new wind farm planned for completion this year in ShackelfordCounty, in the north-central area of the state. The project’s initial phase will total 200 MW. Two additional 200 MW phases are being considered for the site.

In other wind power news, a Wind Power Symposium focusing on technology, economics and politics of wind power is scheduled for April 20-21, in WashingtonD.C. Four organizations, including the Institute of Electrical and Electronics Engineers (IEEE), the North American Electric Reliability Council (NERC), the American Wind Energy Association (AWEA) and the Utility Wind Integration Group (UWIG), have announced plans to co-sponsor and cooperate in this major symposium on the current status of wind power and electric utilities. For more information, click here .