During 2014’s Polar Vortex weather event, demand skyrocketed as buildings ran their furnaces at full output during the extreme cold. Supply was also reduced, as the frigid temperatures unexpectedly knocked many conventional power plants offline, in some cases due to fuel supply constraints. However, wind turbines kept turning, helping keep the lights on and energy prices in check. As a result, wind saved consumers across the Great Lakes and Mid-Atlantic regions over $1 billion in just two days.
Individual wind plants typically generate electricity over 90 percent of the time, a number that is increasing due to technological advances allowing wind turbines to reach stronger, steadier winds. This number increases even further when grid operators aggregate the output of all wind plants, and all sources of supply and demand, over large regions. Decreases in output at one wind plant are typically canceled out by increases at another plant. Moreover, any variability in the aggregate output of all wind plants is often canceled out by larger fluctuations in electricity demand and output deviations at conventional power plants.
Wind power’s greatest contribution to a reliable, diverse electricity mix is its ability to produce energy with no fuel cost or fuel price risk. Wind makes the power system more resilient and reduces fuel costs and risks for American families and businesses by making our energy portfolio more diverse, all while creating cleaner air.