PJM Interconnection, the ISO (Independent System Operator) of the electric grid that provides electricity not only for those of us in North East, but all of Pennsylvania, Ohio, Virginia, West Virginia, New Jersey, Delaware and Maryland plus some areas in adjoining states, issued a warning about risks to the reliability of the grid due to the accelerated shutdowns of multiple fossil fuel power plants while replacement power in the form of renewables (wind and solar) will be slow to come online.
Just one of the electricity suppliers within the PJM network, Energy Harbor, is shutting down three plants, two of which are the largest power plants to be shutdown this year anywhere in the entire country:
- W.H. Sammis Diesel Units SAA, B1-B4, Stratton, Ohio (12.5 MW, diesel oil)
- W.H. Sammis Units 5-7, Stratton, Ohio (1,694 MW, coal)
- Pleasants Power Station Units 1 and 2, Willow Island, West Virginia (1,368 MW, coal)
These three plants represent 3,074 megawatts (MW) of generating capacity and will continue normal operations between now and June 2023. That’s 3.07 GW (gigawatts)!
PJM’s interconnection queue is composed primarily of intermittent and limited-duration resources. Given the operating characteristics of these resources, we need multiple megawatts of these resources to replace 1 MW of thermal generation.
What that means is the currently planned replacements are renewables (wind and solar) which are intermittent (when the wind blows) and limited duration in operation (when the sun shines during the day), so the replacement isn’t a one to one MW swap compared to the reliable coal or gas fired plants being shutdown that run 24 hours a day, every day. Because renewables when deployed only produce electricity part of the time, wind turbines, for instance, have a capacity factor of 30 percent, it takes as many as 3 MW of renewable power to be considered a replacement for 1 MW of conventional fossil fuel power. In the case above, the 3 gigawatts of power being taken offline will require over 9 gigawatts of wind turbines, that’s 3000 3 MW wind turbines! And without conventional backup power even that may not be enough because most all of them can be idle at one time. The solar projects planned in our area, the tiny 5 MW 25 acre community solar project on Rte 89 or the massive 270 MW project planned in Ripley, NY that will cover 2000 acres, do nothing to replace what’s being removed on a massive scale.
For the first time in recent history, PJM could face decreasing reserve margins should these trends continue.
The composition and performance characteristics of the resource mix will ultimately determine PJM’s ability to maintain reliability. It is critical that all PJM markets effectively correct imbalances brought on by retirements or load growth by incentivizing investment in new or expanded resources.
Our electric grid which has been and should be very reliable with power to spare, has been, due to government green energy mandates and corporate ESG policies, transformed into a weak and far less reliable grid, where we may see blackouts of varying degrees in high demand situations. This risk is political, entirely man-made and totally preventable.
You can contact our PA state Senator Dan Laughlin and our new state Representative Jake Banta and encourage them to block any further power plant shutdowns which could be catastophic for the safety and reliability of our power grid.