Texas Wind Energy Comes Through in Ground Hog Storm

February 4, 2011

Many parts of the Texas experienced rolling blackouts in the past week, coinciding with unusually cold temperatures across many parts of the state. Millions of customers statewide appear to have been affected.

Texas Wind power made a critical difference in keeping the lights on for many customers.

According to the American Wind Energy Association:

• Wind energy played a major role in keeping the blackouts from becoming more severe. Between 5 and 7 A.M. wednesday morning (the peak of the electricity shortage) wind was providing between 3,500 and 4,000 MW, roughly the amount it had been forecast and scheduled to provide. That is about 7% of the state’s total electricity demand at that time, or enough for about 3 million average homes.

• Cold and icy conditions caused unexpected equipment failures at power plants, taking up to 50 fossil-fired power plants totaling 7,000 MW of capacity offline.

• The cold temperatures caused electric heating demand to exceed the demand expected for this time of year. Many fossil and nuclear power plants take planned outages during non-summer months for maintenance, since electric demand is usually lower during these periods than in the summer.

• The cold temperatures led to very high demand for natural gas for heating purposes, which may have strained the ability of the natural gas pipeline and distribution system to meet both these heating needs and the need to supply natural gas power plants (Texas obtains about half of its electricity by burning natural gas, and gas power plants account for about 70% of the state’s generating capacity).

“While we are still learning about what happened today, this weather event clearly demonstrates the importance of developing and maintaining a diverse energy portfolio that is not overly dependent on any one energy source,”said Michael Goggin, Manager of Transmission Policy, American Wind EnergyAssociation. “This experience shows just how valuable a clean, affordable and homegrown energy source like wind can be in contributing to a reliable electric system.”

Wind power increased globally by 22 percent in 2010. According to WindTech International:

This was a result of the financial crisis, low levels of wind turbines orders working their way through the system, a depressed OECD electricity demand, as well as policy uncertainty in the US. The US, traditionally one of the strongest wind markets, saw its annual installations drop by 50% from 10 GW in 2009 to just over 5 GW in 2010. In Europe also, new installed capacity in 2010 (9.9 GW) was 7.5% down on 2009 (10.7 GW), despite a 50% growth of the offshore market in countries like the UK, Denmark and Belgium, and new developments in Eastern Europe, mainly in Romania, Bulgaria and Poland.

The Wall Street Journal noted that China is now the world leader in wind development.

About 9% of China’s energy mix was renewable last year, (emphasis mine) short of a target of 10% for the end of the last five-year plan, which expired in 2010.

In contrast, the pace of U.S. wind-power installations about halved from the previous rapid pace during the year to 5,115 megawatts, the American Wind Energy Association, or AWEA, announced this week. The national total edged up to 40,180 megawatts, with a quarter of it in Texas.

AWEA blamed the industry’s “boom-and-bust cycle” on “short-term incentives” from Congress that are “not conducive to business investment and increased employment.” Specifically the association was referring to a year of uncertainties over economic incentives, including a federal tax credit that was renewed in December but only for another year.

Can there be any doubt that country that learns to power itself from the infinite, free energy that the planet provides will be the leader of the world by mid-century? Is there any  issue more important to national security?

See my video on wind energy here.


6 Responses to “Texas Wind Energy Comes Through in Ground Hog Storm”

  1. […] Texas Wind Energy Comes Through in Ground Hog Storm « Climate … […]

  2. […] This post was mentioned on Twitter by Best of Science News and Planet3.0, Peter Sinclair. Peter Sinclair said: Texas Wind Energy Comes Through in Ground Hog Storm: http://t.co/xP3gqKb […]

  3. Oddly, this video cannot be viewed on your site (Sony has made a copyright claim towards it)….. Don’t you love that?

    I live in Texas and have been its biggest cheerleader.

  4. otter17 Says:

    From a first look, it seems the CEO of Electric Reliability Council of Texas (ERCOT) is happy with wind’s contribution.


    “Doggett: I’m not aware of any nuclear plant problems, and I’m not aware of any specific issues with wind turbines having to shut down due to icing. I would highlight that we put out a special word of thanks to the wind community because they did contribute significantly through this timeframe. Wind was blowing, and we had often 3,500 megawatts of wind generation during that morning peak, which certainly helped us in this situation.”

    Wind will be a contributor (along with geothermal, hydro, solar, algal biodiesel) that can power our future indefinitely. We have an uphill road to get there, though, with people writing articles such as the one below. Michael Goggin of AWEA asked for a retraction, and rightfully so it seems.

    Also, at the end of this article from WattsUpWithThat, it is implied that wind energy was the only cause of a minor Texas blackout in 2008, when in fact the linked article clearly states that there were multiple causes, and the wind was seen in advance to be ramping down for 3 hours or so.

    Finally, this kind of attitude towards a guest (CEO of AWEA, Denise Bode) is ridiculous. Her behavior despite it all qualifies for sainthood if you ask me.

  5. […] fact that wind turbines are surviving in the hostile waters of the North Sea, the gusty, sun-snow and thunder-pounded Texas panhandle, and riding out earthquakes and tsunamis unscathed, pretty much answers any questions about their […]

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