Sitting in a comfortable office and mulling over arguments about wind energy?s potential is one thing. Experiencing it firsthand is another. Over the holidays, I was skiing up a sunny road heading to Tioga Pass near Yosemite. About a mile before reaching the pass, I glided around a bend and was met by a blast of icy wind. It stung my face and nearly blew me over. Turning back wasn?t really an option, given it was the first day of a multiday trip in a spectacular region. I cursed Mother Nature, pulled down my hat, wrapped my scarf around my face, and forged ahead. Getting hit by a 70 mph relentless Arctic blast and the resulting windburn was quite a reminder of the power of wind. While wind, icy or not, blows fast and furious in parts of the state?including in the Tehachapis, Altamont Pass and Solano County?its force drops as the temperature rises, except in the Palm Desert region. Thus, reaching agreement on how much electricity this intermittent resource should get credit for producing is a matter of intense discussion. For example, if a wind turbine can crank out up to 100 MW, how much can be expected to be fed into the grid? How wind power is ?rated? has been the nub of excessive debate. It?s time to forge ahead and bring on the new renewable resources. It?s not as if other power sources escaped the same problem. Like other generating resources?be they old gas-fired turbines, new combined-cycle, water-cooled facilities, nuclear units, or solar projects?wind comes with a unique set of characteristics. Thus, fitting it into the state?s power system is basically a planning issue. The inherent unreliability of diverse resources?clean and polluting?that fuel the grid is the reason the state set a 15-17 percent reserve requirement for the utilities. Utilities, wind generators, and regulators are trying to agree on rating wind projects? output along with interrelated interconnection issues as wind-driven supplies are projected to grow significantly in California. The Federal Energy Regulatory Commission held a technical conference on wind issues, including interconnection, last fall, and the general consensus from an array of participants was that wind should be rated in the 80 percent range (<i>Circuit<\/i>, Oct. 1, 2004). Part and parcel of the issue is the scale on which wind energy production should be measured. Should the output be assessed per wind farm, by region, by utility service territory, or by California Independent System Operator area? Not only is the breadth of measurement at issue, but so too is how best to use the resource. Should it be used as replacement power? As a clean, local energy source? For reliability? The California Public Utilities Commission is expected to issue a ruling on the matter in June. ?What objective are you really trying to meet?is it an economic driver or peak capacity?? asked Jim Detmers, California Independent System Operator vice-president of grid operations. Some contend that the nature of wind?its variability?is its major weakness. Others, however, say concerns about wind power?s reliability are way overblown?a sentiment I share, particularly because of the increased predictability of 24-hour wind forecasts. ?The issue is not just unique to wind,? noted John Fielder, Southern California Edison senior vice-president. No source of power is 100 percent reliable, and large and small power plants?nuclear and fossil fuel, as well as renewable?crash and trip off line unexpectedly. Consider hydropower?a resource we rely on heavily from within and outside the state?which drops during droughts. Gas-fired plants will become increasingly unreliable given the diminishing fuel source. According to Fielder, ?crisp criteria? are needed for setting the resource-adequacy requirements, and reliability and deliverability must be included in whether wind power will be available to serve peak load. ?We should use historical data that is metered to find out how much wind is delivered on peak hours,? he added. Peak demand, however, is only a fraction?albeit a very important one?of the state?s power system demand. Last summer there were seven record peak loads in the CAISO territory, representing approximately 43 hours out of 8,000 hours a year, Detmers said. ?We also need to fill in the energy needs the rest of the time,? he added. The challenge in meeting resource adequacy, he said, involves taking the various generating resources and ?putting them into a fixed box.? For California Energy Commission member John Geesman, the focus of wind development should not be to meet peak demand on hot summer days. It should be used primarily ?to displace fuel costs,? he said, adding, ?there are other places to turn to address reliability.? In Geesman?s view, wind power should meet the criteria of the renewables portfolio standards law, which include that the green resource be ?least cost and best fit.? For example, the supply may be better suited to meeting off-peak load. That is in no small part because the resource generally peaks at night in January and February. In addition, how best to use wind power may vary geographically because of supply needs, demands, the proximity of the wind turbines, and\/or transmission capabilities. Looking beyond our borders to see how countries with well-developed wind energy resources treat the issue is instructive. In Germany and Denmark, reliability of wind supplies is not the issue. Au contraire?it is related to having too much generation on nonpeak days. An area being explored to address wind?s intermittent nature is technology that would, unlike the nature of electricity, capture and store it for later. The CEC voted last month to fund a pilot project that entails a flywheel, which could store the kinetic energy (<i>Circuit<\/i>, Dec. 3, 2004). But the bottom line is not letting the rating issue make us lose footing on the trail to getting more renewables on line. <b>Edison Seeks FERC Accommodation for New Lines<\/b\/ Southern California Edison plans to seek approval from the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission for the utility to roll into rates the up-front costs of the transmission expansions. The motion, if approved, would be used first to make way for expected new wind plants in the Tehachapi Mountains. Who pays the initial costs has been the focus of a long struggle between the utility and third-party wind companies?large and small (<i>Circuit<\/i>, Dec. 10, 2004). John Fielder, Edison senior vice-president, said that the application will likely be filed at FERC by January 28.