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Dominion’s Wind Gamble Could Cost Customers

by William O’Keefe

A study by the Kleiman Center for Energy Policy at the University of Pennsylvania concluded that reaching long-term offshore wind power targets presents serious challenges with “the most pressing being the need to build out the electric grid to reliably and economically deliver vast quantities of offshore wind power.” And that also involves building adequate storage capacity.

Although the SCC has approved Dominion’s plan for building a smart grid, it remains to be seen if its implementation will match the rhetoric and the operational needs of the offshore wind farm. Dominion has balked at being held to meeting a performance standard, which is telling.

An enhanced grid is essential because intermittent wind makes it necessary to compensate for periods of low or no wind while also matching demand and supply. Dominion is now in year three of its smart grid plan, so compatibility is based on analyses that are heavy on assumptions and light on empirical data.

The challenge facing Dominion may be best summarized by the observation that there’s a disconnect between the need for a stable grid that supplies electricity on demand 24 hours every day and the asserted moral obligation that we use non-dispatchable, intermittent, and generally unreliable renewable power in spite of the fact that intermittency is presently the enemy of a stable electric grid. California, which is far ahead of Virginia in moving to renewable energy, recognizes this. The California Independent System Operator (CAISO) has said the “biggest challenge of managing a greener grid is maintaining a precise balance between supply and demand as the percentage of intermittent power from renewables increases.” Continue reading