The hidden value of large-rotor, tall-tower wind turbines in the United States
The significant upscaling of wind turbine size (nameplate capacity, rotor diameter, and tower height) has, to date, been driven primarily by a goal of minimizing the levelized cost of energy. But with wind’s levelized cost of energy now comparable with that of other generating resources, other design considerations besides cost-minimization have grown in importance—particularly as wind’s increasing market penetration begins to impose challenges on the electric grid. We find that taller towers and larger rotors (relative to nameplate capacity) can enhance the value of wind energy to the electricity system and provide other “hidden” benefits. Specifically, in regions where wind penetration has reached around 20%, we find a boost in wholesale market value of US$2–US$3/MWh. This is augmented by transmission, balancing, and financing benefits that sum to roughly US$2/MWh. The aggregate potential value enhancement of US$4–US$5/MWh is comparable with a 10%–15% reduction in levelized costs.