Thursday, February 28, 2008

More energy issues

OK, since I am back on the theme of electric power reliability, here is an interesting tidbit showing why production diversity is good:

ERCOT [Electric Reliability Council of Texas] said the grid's frequency dropped suddenly when wind production fell from more than 1,700 megawatts, before the event, to 300 MW when the emergency was declared.

But they had a plan, and immediately cut 1100MW to interruptible customers, thus saving the grid from going down. Soon they were able to fire up other production facilities and have everyone back on line.

The biggest drawback to wind power (there are a few) is that the wind is notoriously unpredictable. However, as long as there is a backup plan, wind power can be a good additional source.


Tom Gray said...

Thanks for the positive post. When the wind stops blowing and wind farm electricity generation drops, the process usually takes hours. By contrast, other power plants may go out of service instantaneously when a problem occurs. Wind forecasting, which could have helped address the ERCOT situation, can be and is being used by utility system operators to manage wind on their systems, and will become standard practice as the use of this clean, renewable energy source continues to grow.

Thomas O. Gray
American Wind Energy Association

max said...

hmmmm, I hadn't considered the time element. As forecasting capability increases, this will become a more reliable source of energy. More importantly, energy diversity protects against a shock in one market due to an embargo, natural disaster or other supply hit. Wind can really help with that. I think the bigger issue, however, is the cost of the transmission lines. Who should bear it? If the need for energy diversity is understood, then the cost for that assurance should be distributed to those who benefit from the added protection, whether or not it is actually used, much like a local emergency response service or fire station.

Just a thought.

Tom Gray said...

Good question, and it's above my pay grade, though we do have some folks in-house who know more. I do know that the cost of transmission is a small part of what the average person pays for electricity (like 10%), and my personal view is that everyone who uses electricity benefits from transmission, so there's a case for spreading the costs over all ratepayers, especially since Texas's overall electricity demand is growing.


max said...

Actually, what I mean is the cost of new powerlines (see the post after this). In addition to the cost of aluminum or copper, there is the cost of leasing the right of way, and the inevitable litigation. The common thought: why should I have to look at powerlines that neither provide me power nor economic benefit? It does the country no good to have a redundant, survivable, multi-source power generation system if there is no means of getting the power to where it needs to go. It is, as a teacher of mine liked to say, a problemtical preference.