Wind Replacing Base Load in Southwest
Wind has gradually been replacing base load generation in the Southwest Power Pool over the past three years, even though the demand for electricity has been growing. The SPP includes mainly Nebraska, Kansas, Oklahoma and north Texas, where the jet stream creates very strong wind currents.
The triangles at the top represent total electrical demand. The blue diamonds represent base load generation - mainly coal and nuclear - and the brown squares at the bottom are wind output. Wind now generates one-third of the power during the annual minimum base load use hour,
The figures can be deceptive, however, because they represent a maximum for wind and a minimum for base load. At other times wind can be generating nothing and coal and nuclear must provide the full load. This off-and-on pattern takes a financial toll on base load plants, particularly nuclear, which must run all the time whether they can sell their electricity or not. Several reactors have now closed because of this adverse economics, which means they must be replaced by other generators that can be turned off and on more quickly, usually natural gas.