Fake News: Wind Tops Coal & Nuclear for First Time in US History

Guest “Situational statistics” by David Middleton

Who else used to play Strat-O-Matic Baseball? One of my Moneyballtype strategies was to draft players with great situational statistics. I remember two players, in particular. We were drafting based on the 1989 Major League Baseball rosters. Paul O’Neill, then with the Cincinnati Reds hit .455 against righthanded pitchers and Fred Manrique, a utility infielder with the Texas Rangers, had nearly a .500 batting average with runners in scoring position.

Strategically platooning Paul O’Neill against righthanded pitching and using Fred Manrique exclusively as a pinch-hitter with runners in scoring position, racked up some impressive Strat-O-Matic results, but bore very little resemblance to reality, just like wind’s one day second place finish.

The Bloomberg headline (article pay-walled) is fake news on steroids:

Wind Passed Coal, Nuclear Power in U.S. for First Time on Record

Clickbait dominated the headlines:

The E&E article, posted on Unscientific Unamerican is less misleading, but still fake news:

In a First, Wind Generation Tops Coal and Nuclear Power for a Day
The milestone showed both how far renewable energy has come and the lengths the country must go to reach President Joe Biden’s climate goals

By Benjamin Storrow, E&E News on April 15, 2022

Wind was the second-largest source of power generation in the country on March 29, the U.S. Energy Information Administration reported yesterday, marking the first time wind output had ever simultaneously exceeded coal and nuclear over a 24-hour period.

[…]

The surge in wind output on March 29 was driven by the Great Plains states. The Southwest Power Pool, the regional grid operator for 14 states stretching from Oklahoma to North Dakota, reported that renewable generation accounted for 90 percent of its electricity production on March 29, with nearly all of that coming from wind.

[…]

Unscientific Unamerican

The Unsci-Unam article links to this EIA article:

APRIL 14, 2022
Wind was second-largest source of U.S. electricity generation on March 29

On Tuesday, March 29, wind turbines in the Lower 48 states produced 2,017 gigawatthours (GWh) of electricity, making wind the second-largest source of electric generation for the day, only behind natural gas, according to our Hourly Electric Grid Monitor. Daily wind-powered electricity had surpassed coal-fired and nuclear electricity generation separately on other days earlier this year but had not surpassed both sources on a single day.

Consistent growth in the installed capacity of wind turbines in the United States has led to more wind-powered electricity generation. In September 2019, U.S. wind capacity surpassed nuclear capacity, but wind still generated less electricity than nuclear because of differences in those technologies’ utilization.

The average capacity factor of U.S. wind generators (35% in 2021) is lower than the average capacity factor of nuclear generators (93% in 2021), which are designed to run at or near full output, which they typically do. Wind turbines currently rank as the third-largest source of generating capacity in the United States, behind natural gas-fired generators and coal-fired generators.

In the United States, wind speeds, and correspondingly, wind-powered electricity generation, often peak during spring. On March 29, the Southwest Power Pool (SPP), which covers parts of Oklahoma, Kansas, Nebraska, North Dakota, South Dakota, and neighboring states, and the Electric Reliability Council of Texas (ERCOT) both reported new wind penetration records. Wind penetration represents the share of electric demand satisfied by wind generation. SPP reported wind penetration of 88.5% on March 29, and ERCOT reported wind penetration of 67.2% for the same day.

Because electricity demand tends to be lowest in the spring and fall months, some generators—including both nuclear and coal—reduce their output or scheduled maintenance during these months. Also, on days when weather patterns lead to more wind generation, competing coal-fired and natural gas-fired generators often are called upon to reduce their output so that overall electricity supply matches demand.

The natural variation of wind speeds contributes to very different amounts of wind generation, depending on the time of day or season. Wind first ranked as the second-largest source of U.S. electricity generation for an hour in late March 2021.

On a monthly basis, we have had less wind generation in the United States than natural gas-fired generationcoal-fired generation, or nuclear generation. We do not expect wind to surpass either coal-fired or nuclear generation for any month in 2022 or 2023, based on our most recent Short-Term Energy Outlook forecast.

Our Hourly Electric Grid Monitor publishes electric generation from generators that are metered within reporting balancing authorities. Typically, balancing authorities do not meter generators on the distribution system—both large-scale resources and small-scale distributed resources, such as rooftop solar photovoltaic systems. The data series in our Electric Power Monthly represent our official statistical reports and include both large-scale and small-scale resources in the generation data.

Principal contributors: Jonathan DeVilbiss, M. Tyson Brown

Tags: generation, coal, electricity, natural gas, nuclear, renewables, wind

EIA

On a particularly windy spring day, when thermal power plants are gearing down for a low demand season, in the windiest season of the year, wind edged out nuclear and coal generation on one day.

This “milestone” was largely driven by the Southwest Power Pool (SWPP), a region with phenomenal wind resources and a lot of installed wind capacity.

At this time of year, wind is often the top generation source in the SWPP…

It would be interesting to see how much wind power had to be curtailed and how many migratory birds were killed on March 29.

Putting this into context and we can see that wind is still in a distant fourth place:

Wind works OK where it works, when it works, unless you happen to be a migratory bird… In which case it works best when it doesn’t work, which is most of the time in most places. Fake news isn’t necessarily false… It’s often an un-newsworthy headline story, reported breathlessly by the media because it fits their worldview.

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April 17, 2022 at 08:56PM

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