Tuesday, January 14, 2014

Wind Power Gains in Texas

Texas is by far the largest generator of wind power in the US, and would be even further ahead but for transmission line limitations.  Gains were expecting in the new year as a number of transmission constrains were overcome, and more power brought on line.

Both California and Texas are worth watching closely as test cases for renewables integration, but for different reasons.  California has a large renewables mandate and a growing contribution from Solar PV.  Texas has less solar but substantial wind.  The EIA Electric Power Monthly data indicates the growth trend (and seasonality) in Texas wind generation.  The data are not yet available for NOV & DEC, but I used the ERCOT hourly wind generation reports to check on January progress in Texas.  Through the morning of the 14th of Jan, average generation is running well ahead of '13, up 44%:

With average peak hour generation normally around 40GW (varies substantially due to weather), it indicates that well over 10% of electricity generation in Texas is coming from wind in January.

A review of the hourly data indicates that wind output varies from over 9,000 MW to under 1,000 MW, a fact which captures the issue with wind, its variability.  Wind's second problem, unpredictability, is a subject for another day.  The official story says that natural gas fired power is the natural pair with wind, because it can be quickly cycled up and down.  An argument against that, for limits to that, can be made:

  • As wind gets larger and more distributed geographically, the high and low extremes will decrease, and when wind gets large enough, even the standby generation role of gas will result in less overall output (and gas consumption) from gas fired power.