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A decision announced today by the Midwest Independent Transmission System Operator (MISO) could change the economics of wind power in the region.

MISO controls power supplies to the grid, which serves most of the Midwest as well as Manitoba, through spot markets at intervals as short as five minutes. MISO determines demand, and power companies bid to supply the energy.

In the past, if various generating sources were pushing too much power to the grid, wind farms, which are easiest to switch on and off, would typically be shut down, even if they were the least expensive source of energy. This is known as curtailment (a practice that is the subject of some controversy in the Northwest).

That’s bad news for wind farm operators, because they can’t make money if they’re not generating power, and the industry has long complained the practice puts them at an unfair disadvantage.

But wind farms will now be designated as Dispatchable Intermittent Resources, which basically gives them equal standing to other power sources when MISO dispatches energy via the real-time spot market. According to a 2010 NREL report, the New York ISO is the only other U.S. grid operator to put wind generators on an equal footing.

In a news release, Joe Gardner, a spokesman for MISO, says the move “enhances systemwide operational and market efficiency.”

Photo by Roland Peschetz via Creative Commons

Ken Paulman

Ken is the director of the Energy News Network at Fresh Energy and is a founding editor of both Midwest Energy News and Southeast Energy News. Prior to joining Fresh Energy, he was the managing editor for online news at Minnesota Public Radio. He started his journalism career in 2002 as a copy editor for the Duluth News Tribune before spending five years at the Spokesman-Review in Spokane, Washington, where he worked as a copy editor, online producer, features editor and night city editor. A Nebraska native, Ken has a bachelor's degree from the University of Nebraska-Lincoln and a master's degree from the University of Oregon. He is a member of the Society of Professional Journalists and Investigative Reporters and Editors.

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