July 26, 2018 Read More →

More wind helps Texas grid weather heat wave

KUT:

Take a rapidly growing state, add a scorching heat wave, and you have a recipe for historically high electricity use. So it was that Texas broke the record for power demand three times in the last week. Through it all, the state’s electric grid operated without major disruption. That success nevertheless revealed some interesting things about the ways we generate and consume electricity.

The shuttering of three Texas coal power plants earlier this year made some people worry about the grid’s thinning generation-reserve margin. That’s basically a backup power supply we can rely on if something goes wrong with other power plants.

Rolling blackouts during the heat wave could have given the coal industry ammunition as it argues for subsidies to stay afloat. But, the grid did just fine without the plants.

With a smaller-than-ideal reserve margin and a massive demand for power, many industry analysts expected electricity prices to be high through much of the heat wave. But they weren’t.

The reasons for those low prices are cheap natural gas and abundant wind power – and wind came on strong during the heat wave.

The percentage of power that comes from wind has been steadily increasing for years, [according to Joshua Rhodes, a research fellow at the Energy Institute at UT Austin], but at some times during the last week wind was “outperforming its own forecast.” That means cheaper power for consumers, he says. “The grid just isn’t as stressed, because there’s just so much wind.”

More: The AC stayed on: 3 takeaways from Texas’ scorching heat wave

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