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Summary:

Less than a week after the New York Times celebrated Texas’ dominant position in wind power, a cool, still day dawned. The cold weather drove residents to crank up the heat, but the lack of wind to turn turbines pushed the state’s electric grid into emergency […]

Less than a week after the New York Times celebrated Texas’ dominant position in wind power, a cool, still day dawned. The cold weather drove residents to crank up the heat, but the lack of wind to turn turbines pushed the state’s electric grid into emergency mode. On Tuesday night, the Electric Reliability Council of Texas cut off power for 90 minutes to those customers who had agreed to accept power interruptions. And it was a full three hours before everything was back to normal.

All of which proves that while, cheap, clean and renewable, it’s pretty hard to know which way the wind will blow.

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By Stacey Higginbotham

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  1. I believe this is more of an issue of bad planning and lack of storage cells than an example of the failings of wind technology. ERC of TX made a serious miscalculation, buying too little energy produced on-demand from non-renewable sources, and betting long that wind would not drop as low as it did for as long as it did. In order for the full potential of wind energy to be realized in TX, better ways of transmitting the energy to areas other parts of the power grid that can utilize excess energy produced by wind at any given time, or converting the excess wind power to a storable means of energy, is absolutely necessary.

    Wind currents moving close to the surface of the earth are subject to a high degree of fluctuation due to a variety of seasonal, topographic and weather-related factors. By converting this source into electrical energy using turbines, one is using an inherently unpredictable source of electrical energy. If there is no easy way to store energy gained from wind, then using this energy in a power grid still will requires a much larger, non-renewable energy generator, which can increase its output based on demand — not tied to natural conditions.

  2. This can’t be good. Especially when the Congress is debating the merits of the federal Production Tax Credit for wind. I recognize that this is not some inherent shortcoming of wind energy, per se, but rather how wind fits in with our current grid along with smarter planning, combined with broadband information diffusion and, of course, storage, would all help alleviate the temporal inconsistencies of wind.

    Politically, I just think the timing is ironic. Especially considering at least one Democratic Rep. from Texas, Gene Green (29th District) voted in opposition to the bill despite having supported it last December (HR 6, I think).

  3. Sounds like no one here read any of the primary source coverage. True, it was lousy journalism compounded by even worse writing.

    The fall-off was the result of several systems coming up short. Because wind was the newest [and newsworthy] it got the only feature. But, ALL the systems combined for the shortfall.

    Which is why I didn’t consider it worthwhile blogging.

  4. Stacey Higginbotham Friday, February 29, 2008

    @Eideard, all systems, including some power plants under-producing, combined to cause problems, but wind power dropped by 1,400 MW three hours before the Stage 2 emergency was called. It only takes a drop of 750 MW to move ERCOT from an alert to the stage 2 emergency that was declared, so obviously wind played a significant role in ERCOT’s decision to interrupt power. That’s direct from the primary source of ERCOT’s press release, which is linked to in the article.

  5. Appropriately chastened, Stacey…

  6. EnerNOC Waltzes Into Texas « Earth2Tech Thursday, March 13, 2008

    [...] grid and reduce power consumption by large industrial users for a number of years; most recently it used the system after wind turbines slowed just as evening electric usage was powering [...]

  7. Green energy is definitely the best solution in most cases. Technology like solar energy, wind power, fuel cells, zaps electric vehicles, EV hybrids, etc have come so far recently. Green energy even costs way less than oil and gas in many cases.

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