November 8, 2017

ISO: Solar, wind help power New England

A crew from SolarCity installs panels in Wethersfield.

Solar and wind power production, though still only a small contributor to the region's overall power supply, has started to reduce demand on traditional power plants, according to ISO New England, which operates the region's bulk power system and wholesale electricity market.

In a report released Friday, ISO predicted that growing availability of solar- and wind-generated power over the next 10 years, coupled with energy-efficiency measures, will reduce the total annual demand for conventionally produced electricity by 0.6 percent per year. The summer peak demand will be reduced by a more modest 0.1 percent annually by 2026 under normal weather conditions, the report said.

The study predicts adequate electrical power generation overall in New England through at least 2021, including 515 megawatts from energy-efficiency measures, 6 megawatts of new wind power, and 5 megawatts of new solar power. That accounts for older generating-plant retirements, the ISO said.

From 2010 to summer 2020, power plant retirements will take offline about 4,800 megawatts of generating capacity, the report said. Older oil- and coal-fired and nuclear generators face retirement due to economic and environmental pressures, the report said.

The retiring plants are likely to be replaced by natural-gas-fired power plants and renewable energy resources such as wind and solar, ISO said.

As of April, about 12,899 megawatts of generation sources had applied to connect to the region's high-voltage power system, ISO reported. But historically, the connection backlog has had an attrition rate of 68 percent, ISO said, meaning only 32 percent actually make it to connecting with the grid.

Solar-produced power totaled 1,918 megawatts by the end of 2016, ISO said. By the end of 2026, solar is expected to contribute 4,733 megawatts.

New England also already has 1,300 megawatts of wind generation capacity, and about 5,400 megawatts more had been proposed as of April.

Connecticut and the rest of Southern New England are "the most reliable and economic place" for such resource development, the report said.

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