That wind chill you’re feeling is also delivering record electric power

Wind chill has been delivering painfully cold temperatures for people in the Midwest and on the East Coast already this winter. But they won’t be feeling as much pain in their pocketbooks, thanks to the low-priced energy that those same winds are generating.

In the past week, wind energy set new generation records for the two power pools that supply most of the Midwest. At its peak, wind power was generating enough energy across America’s heartland for 15 million typical homes.

{mosads}That power is not only coming when it’s needed, but it is saving consumers money – just as it did at this time last year. Wind power saved electricity users in the Mid-Atlantic and Great Lakes states $1 billion during just two days of the “polar vortex” event on January 6-7, 2014, according to a recent white paper by the American Wind Energy Association.

Whenever a cold snap sends temperatures plummeting and Americans consumers reaching for their thermostats, electricity demand jumps just as the price of other fuels spikes, driving increases in electricity prices that are passed on to consumers.

Wind energy, on the other hand, has no need for fuel, and indeed is powered by the same winds driving record low temperatures. Its fixed low cost means utilities use it first, avoiding some of the need for the most expensive “peak power” and holding down the price charged to consumers for all energy on that day.

“Wind [is] one of the fuel choices that helps us manage congestion on the system and ultimately helps keep prices low for our and the end-use consumer.” That’s according to the MidContinent ISO (MISO), the independent grid operator for much of the Midwest, along with the Southwest Power Pool (SPP).

Further investments in wind power could produce even greater savings.

A May 2013 Synapse Energy Economics report found doubling the use of wind on the PJM power grid that supplies the Mid-Atlantic and Great Lake states would produce additional savings for consumers in the billions of dollars. With potential savings this high, the U.S. doesn’t need to wait for another “polar vortex” or similar crisis to demonstrate the case for further investment in wind power.

A predictable, stable, and pro-growth tax policy remains a key factor in encouraging further expansion of the wind power industry. Last year’s extension of the renewable energy production tax credit – effectively just for the last two weeks of December since it came so late in the year – is no way to run an energy policy, or grow an industry that has become a major success story for the U.S. economy.

Vaughan is Media Relations and Outreach Coordinator for the American Wind Energy Association. He received his M.A. in Global Environmental Policy from American University in Washington, D.C.


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