I have been following this for several days now, with a view toward confirming or falsifying several statements one reads in various blogs/journals/media about wind and how unreliable it is. I note several things: 1) wind power in Texas never seems to drop to zero. I have seen it down to around 2 percent during the day. Texans use a lot of power each day, and the wind decreases a bit in the mornings; 2) wind power increases at night usually, consistent with increasing winds; 3) the most I have observed from this ERCOT site, is 8 percent of total generation; 4) spinning reserve is invariably more than the wind power generated, but not by much.
Here is what the website showed at 22:04 local time (CDT): (reload the ERCOT webpage to update the information)
These observations are based on the various things put forth by those in the wind-power business. First, that wind power is only 1 percent of total generation. Not in Texas, it seems. From my observations, it appears that an average is about 4 percent. Second, that wind power drops to zero, and other generation systems must take over the load. I have yet to see it drop to zero, but then I have only watched for a few days, and then not full-time. Third, that a power grid begins to have troubles when wind energy approaches five or six percent of the total load (various sources use different figures here). The Texas grid seems to work just fine with wind providing 7 and 8 percent of the load. I have not read nor heard of any troubles in Texas due to wind-power.
It would be nice if this data were also presented in a graphical form, as California's ISO does. I would like to see a graph of total grid power generated over the 24 hours in a day, with a second line showing the amount of power provided by wind.
Some say renewables are not reliable, and do not provide any energy. Hah. Facts are stubborn things.
Oh. One other thing: the ongoing operating and maintenance costs for wind-energy is essentially zero. It is far, far, less than the cost of running a nuclear power plant, with their outrageously expensive piping, valves, pumps, heat exchangers, boilers, water softeners, toxic waste fuel storage areas, steam turbines, generators, steam condensers, cooling towers, and the hundreds of personnel required to operate. Not to mention the millions of dollars per year that are paid for the operating license. And wind power plants do not leak radioactive, toxic tritium into the water supply.
The wind is free. The wind is non-toxic. The wind does not create a toxic, radioactive waste that endures for centuries.
UPDATE 1 July 18, 2009: A wind energy resource link for Texas, also US, also offshore.
This link shows the offshore Texas wind resource measured at 50 meters height; for an area 50 miles offshore and to the shore. The best wind areas (Class 5) are just offshore Corpus Christi, and ranging about 75 miles southward down the coast, and extend approximately 50 miles offshore. This area is more than 3,500 square miles, representing a huge un-tapped resource of wind power.
Also offshore Texas, there is an even larger area of Class 4 wind to the north and south of the Class 5 area, comprising approximately 9,000 square miles.