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Wednesday, March 3, 2021

Going green? Renewable energy capacity in PJM increases slowly

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PJM Interconnection LLC, the nation’s largest independent system operator by operating capacity, has the lowest percentage of installed capacity from renewable resources among the seven U.S. ISOs.

PJM encompasses all or part of 13 states plus the District of Columbia. All have either a formal renewable portfolio standard, or RPS, or voluntary renewable energy goals. About 7.5% of the roughly 200,000 MW of installed generating capacity in the PJM region comes from renewables.

As it stands today

PJM’s largest source of renewable capacity is hydroelectric generation. With 8,040 MW of operating capacity and 15.5 million MWh of generation in 2010, PJM’s hydroelectric fleet of 86 plants accounts for 52% of total renewable capacity and 44% of renewable generation for the region. By installed capacity, wind comes next, with 4,926 MW. A majority of these projects were installed in the past decade, with more than 440 MW coming online in 2011 and 2012.

As it is in all regions, consistency was a problem for wind generation in PJM in 2010. Capacity factors for wind generation averaged about 25%. Installed biomass capacity, which totals less than half the installed wind capacity, had 10.7 million MWh of net generation in 2010, while wind facilities produced 9.1 million MWh over the same period.

Installed solar capacity is minimal, at 269 MW. There are no geothermal plants in the region.

As it may stand tomorrow

Of PJM’s 56,763 MW of planned capacity, 17,308 MW is from renewable projects. Wind accounts for the majority of this planned capacity, with 12,120 MW. The largest of these planned plants is E.ON Climate & Renewables‘ 1,150-MW Wildcat Wind Farm in Indiana, the first phase of which, totaling 200 MW, is expected in service about June 1. A portion of the output has been committed under a long-term contract. Planned hydro capacity totals 3,585 MW and is largely made up of two projects owned by Free Flow Power Corp., the 1,500-MW South Run Pumped Storage Project in Ohio and the 1,000-MW Rockaway Pumped Storage Hydroelectric Project in New Jersey, which received a preliminary permit from FERC on Aug. 1, 2011, and is undergoing an evaluation to determine whether the project is economically feasible. The region also has 835 MW of planned biomass and 768 MW of planned solar capacity.

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The seemingly small investment in solar projects is an indication of the limitation of solar power for the states in the region. As a whole, PJM has limited solar resources. While the region’s power generation mix is dominated by coal, natural gas and nuclear generation, PJM envisions a future where a majority of new capacity comes from renewables, specifically wind.

State by state

Eleven states in the PJM region have new renewable energy capacity planned. New Jersey has the largest amount, at 3,691 MW, consisting mainly of wind and, counting Free Flow Power’s pumped storage facility, hydro. New Jersey’s RPS requires 20% renewables by 2021 and 5,316 GWh from solar capacity by 2026. New Jersey has also enacted an offshore wind requirement intended to lead to the development of at least 1,100 MW of capacity. There are no established annual compliance benchmarks for this capacity.

Ohio closely follows New Jersey, with 3,600 MW of operating capacity, again with the majority from wind and hydroelectric plants. As in New Jersey, the Free Flow Power project makes up most of the planned hydro capacity. Ohio’s RPS requires 25% alternative energy resources by 2025, with a technology minimum of 12.5% renewables by 2024, 0.5% of which must be solar.

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The players

Dominion Resources Inc. is the largest owner of installed renewable capacity in PJM, with 2,335 MW. The majority of Dominion’s capacity comes from hydroelectric plants, and most of that comes from Dominion’s 60% ownership interest in the 3,003-MW Bath County pumped storage facility in Virginia. FirstEnergy Corp., which owns the remaining 40% of the Bath County plant, is the third-largest owner of renewable energy capacity in PJM.

Between them is Exelon Corp., with 2,083 MW. Roughly half of that capacity is from the 1,070-MW Muddy Run Pumped Storage Facility on the Susquehanna River in Pennsylvania. The plant came online in 1967 and reported 1.6 million MWh of generation in 2010.

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While four of the top five owners of renewable energy capacity in PJM are investor-owned utilities that serve customers in the region, only one of the top 10 owners of planned renewable capacity is an investor-owned utility, and that company, Public Service Enterprise Group Inc., is number 10.

Among leaders of planned capacity in PJM, Free Flow Power, with the two pumped storage facilities, tops the list. E.ON Climate and Renewables, owned by German utility holding company E.ON AG, is second, with 1,150 MW of planned capacity, followed by EDP – Energias de Portugal SA, with 1,148 MW of planned capacity in PJM. Both E.ON and EDP are primarily involved in wind.

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The plants

The largest renewable energy facility in PJM by 2010 net generation is the aforementioned Bath County pumped storage facility. Excluding hydroelectric plants, the largest renewable energy facility in PJM is the 600-MW Fowler Ridge wind farm in Indiana, owned by Dominion, Sempra Energy and BP plc and operated by an affiliate of BP. It began operating in 2009 and in 2010 reported net generation of 1.5 million MWh. An additional 150 MW is planned, but there is no specific operation date projected.

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The projects

Among proposed projects, the largest are Free Flow Power’s South Run pumped storage facility and, when including later phases, E.ON’s Wildcat Wind project in Indiana, which expects two additional phases totaling 950 MW operational by the end of 2014.

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