wind power overtakes nuclear and coal for the first time… but still far behind gas

This is a new snub to the opponents of wind energy, at a time when the two candidates for the French presidential elections want to stop the implementation of new parks in the territory – even dismantling existing facilities, to the extent of Marine LePen. Because while the costs of these blade giants have collapsed in a decade, as the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) recently reminded us, their level of production in some countries is now flirting with more traditional energy sources. .. to the point of exceeding them.

Or at least briefly. Thus, in the United States, wind turbines have provided for the first time more electricity in one day than coal or nuclear power, the US Energy Information Agency (EIA) reported Thursday. Specifically, they generated a total of 2,017 gigawatt hours (GWh) of electricity on Tuesday, March 29, while the atom produced 1,989 GWh and coal 1,822 GWh. This is a symbolically important step, for if wind power had already temporarily overtaken nuclear or black rock reactors across the Atlantic, it had never overtaken both at the same time on the scale of a day.

IEA March 29

All conditions met

It must be said that gusts crossed the country that day: the Southwest Power Pool (SPP), which covers especially the regions of Oklahoma, Kansas, Nebraska and Dakota, and the Electric Reliability Council of Texas (ERCOT), where numerous wind turbines are installed. , had reported new wind penetration records.

At the same time, electricity consumption tends to be lower in the spring, some coal and nuclear power plants were operating as planned at a slower rate, while some were shut down for scheduled maintenance.

Added to this is the fact that ” On days when weather conditions prompt increased wind power generation, competing coal and natural gas generators are often asked to reduce production so that overall supply matches demand. says the EIA on its website. Enough to allow wind turbines to steal the show, at least for a few hours.

If the conditions were exceptional that day, such a phenomenon could occur nonetheless.” More frequently as wind capacity increases, according to Tyler Jubert, an energy market analyst at S&P Global. In fact, the US market is very promising for wind energy, as with no less than 100 projects planned, the administration of President Joe Biden is trying to recover lost ground in the field during the previous term. This year alone, an additional 7.6 gigawatts (GW) are expected to come online, according to EIA forecasts.

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Wind power load factor remains low

That’s it” it is not certain that this performance will be repeated regularly in the short term “, tempers the EIA. And for good reason, the production of these giant shovels remains by nature intermittent and uncontrollable, that is, conditioned by weather conditions, unlike atomic or hydrocarbon power plants. As proof, the total theoretical capacity of energy that wind turbines can produce already exceeds that of nuclear reactors since September 2019, but their real contribution to the network is still lower, except for specific events.

Not in vain, since its load factor, that is, the average operating regime, did not exceed 35% in 2021, when that of nuclear power plants amounted to 93%, according to EIA data. Thus, the American agency does not expect the monthly production of wind turbines” exceeds coal or nuclear generation for any month in 2022 or 2023 ».

In addition, the production of electricity from fossil gas, which is obtained mainly by hydraulic fracturing on the other side of the Atlantic, remained the main source of electricity on March 29, with 3,287 GWh supplied to the network, that is, more 1,000 GWh more than wind, according to the EIA Hourly Electricity Network Monitor. While wind power is carving out a place of choice in the US electricity mix, it’s not yet close to eclipsing fossil fuels, which still largely dominate.

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