Friday, January 15, 2016

Wind Provides Record 40 Percent of Grid in Texas

Subtitle:  Flexible Gas-powered Grid Manages Quite Well

It was a typical winter cold front that came barreling into North Texas in late December, 2015.  Windy.  Cold.  For hour after hour after hour (approximately 20 consecutive hours.)   Western novels describe such cold winds and how cowboys and settlers cope.   This one was real.  The key point is that the wind turbines in Texas cranked it up and sent the power down the lines.  The electrical grid responded, with other generating plants backing down to keep the grid balanced.   There were no blackouts.  No brownouts.  No problems. 

An article from Scientific American see link describes the wind, the generation, and the Texas grid response.   ("Texas Sets New All-Time Wind Energy Record"). 

From the article:

"The latest record is news not only because wind provided nearly half of Texas’s electricity needs, but also that it did so for so many hours in a row. The sustained winds brought on by the low-pressure front caused wind energy production to exceed 10 gigawatts for essentially the entirety of December 20.

The duration of the record is a big deal because it shows that the rest of the Texas grid can handle a whole lot of wind energy for an extended period of time without suffering instability or brownouts that some predicted. Texas was able to balance the intermittent wind because it has a lot of natural gas power plants, which can adjust their power output more quickly than coal-fired power plants. Considering this fact, it seems like a happy coincidence that market forces are transitioning the U.S. electricity system toward a mix of renewable energy and natural gas."

There has been some activity in the blogosphere discussing renewable energy on the grids, and how the grids simply cannot handle more than some percent of intermittent generation such as wind and solar, once that percent reaches a tipping point.  Some articles discuss 20 percent as the point where problems begin, others suggest 30 percent.   Yet here, we see that Texas (a pretty big grid, by the way), managed 40 percent not just for a few moments, but for many hours, almost a full day.  

It is quite clear that grid designers and planners made a robust grid in Texas.   It is also notable that Texas has, as written here on SLB, a grid that by design can handle the intermittent renewables: very little coal and nuclear, the stubborn baseload plants that refuse to reduce their output.   Coal power is only 28 percent in Texas, and nuclear is only 11 percent.   Flexible-output natural gas power is the biggest source of generation at 48 percent.   

Related articles on SLB:

see link   Wind Energy Increasing in US - Grids Are Fine
see link   California Renewables Not Crashing the Grid  - 31 Percent and Grid is Fine
see link   Energy Supply in Post-Coal America - Renewables to Replace Coal in 20 Years
see link   Climate Denialism - Nuclear vs Renewable Energy
see link   Nuclear Until Renewables Can Shoulder The Load - A Bad Idea

Roger E. Sowell, Esq.
Marina del Rey, California
copyright (c) 2016 by Roger Sowell, all rights reserved

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