Drought/Heat Clobbers Texas Fossil Fuel plants. Wind Keeps on Spinning.
August 8, 2011
When the Earthquake/tsunami closed down all of Japan’s nuclear power plants, I reported that wind was one of the only remaining reliable, tsunami proof sources of power.
Now, Dallas Morning News quotes ERCOT, the Electric Reliability Council of Texas, which manages the state’s electrical systems:
The Texas electrical grid operator began emergency procedures to prevent total blackout on Tuesday as the heat lead to record electricity demand, and told customers to brace for a repeat in the next few days.
The high temperatures also caused about 20 power plants to stop working, including at least one coal-fired plant and natural gas plants.
..such outages aren’t unusual in the hot summer, and Texas is getting some juice from surrounding states and from Mexico.
“They can’t really efficiently condense the steam that’s used to make electricity, so that causes unit deratings that they can’t generate as much as they could if the lake were cooler.”
Meanwhile, some 1,800 MW of wind generation were available yesterday, more than double the 800 MW that ERCOT counts on during periods of peak summer demand for its long-term planning purposes. 1,800 MW is enough to power about 360,000 homes under the very high electricity demand seen yesterday.
AWEA Manager of Transmission Policy Michael Goggin commented, “Like the Texas blackouts in February in which cold weather caused around 80 mostly fossil-fired power plants to shut down unexpectedly, this episode illustrates how common forced outages are at conventional plants, and drives home the point that no power plant is available 100% of the time. And, unlike wind energy, which ramps down gradually over a sustained period of time and is predictable, conventional power plants fail instantaneously. Wind energy is a valuable tool to diversify our portfolio of energy resources and make it more reliable. Wind plants are keeping the lights on and the air conditioners running for hundreds of thousands of homes in Texas.”
Statistics for last year show that natural gas and coal plants produced 78 percent of energy for the portion of the state serviced by the ERCOT power grid.
Wind produced 8 percent of energy last year.
But with the ongoing installation of transmission lines, industry advocates said that number should grow after the lines’ expected 2013 completion date.
“If you go anywhere between Post (southeast of Lubbock) and Winters, you can see hundreds of people working on transmission lines right now, said Greg Wortham, executive director of the Texas Wind Energy Clearinghouse and mayor of Sweetwater.
Texas remains the leader nationally for wind capacity, with more than a fourth of the 42,432 megawatts of United States’ installed capacity, according to the most recent statistics from the American Wind Energy Association.
“Wind could contribute more today if there were more transmission lines,” Wortham said.
“One of the things we’ve seen pretty consistently the last several days is an increase in wind generation from the coastal wind. The coastal wind generation follows our load pattern very well. It starts coming up about one o’clock and, you know, gradually increases, you know, into the evening.”