Wednesday, July 15, 2009

Texas Wind Power Generation

The website found here and shown below is simply fascinating. This is the Texas ERCOT Real-Time information on the electrical power grid throughout most of Texas. What is really interesting (to me) is the line-item that shows Total Wind Output, in MW. As I write this, (8:10 p.m. PDT on July 15, 2009), the system records 2,915 MW from wind generators. That is roughly 6 percent of the total generation at that moment in Texas.

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)

Posted Date15-JUL-2009
Posted Hour2204
Actual System Demand (Frequency Control)52712 MW
Scheduled Frequency60.000 Hz
Actual Frequency59.960 Hz
Time Error-1.162 sec
Total Generation52198 MW
Current Aggregated Regulation Deployment*-236 MW
Adjusted Responsive Reserve4134 MW
Total On-Line Capacity57338 MW
Total Spinning Reserve5140 MW
Total Wind Output2915 MW
DC Tie Flows
LineScheduledActualImp. Lim.Exp. Lim.
DC_E -579 -574 600 600
DC_L 0 1 70 100
DC_N 72 69 210 210
DC_R 0 0 0 150
DC_S 0 0 30 30
Total -507 -504 910 1090
NORTH-HOUSTON 1407 -38 3203
NORTH-SOUTH 245 58 1403
NORTH-WEST -62 52 826
SOUTH-NORTH -245 -58 346
WEST-NORTH 62 -52 1018
* Negative(-) = UP REG Deployed
Positive = DOWN REG Deployed

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.

Texas Wind Power Map 2004Wind Classification Legend

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.


NoFreeWind said...

It is hard to believe that someone who calls themselves an energy guy applauds the benefits of wind. It would take 5,000 wind turbines to have the same yearly MW output as the Susquehanna Nuclear Plant in Penna, which supplies much of my electricity. Wind doesn't make sense. AND there is ongoing costs. A wind farm not too far from me, while pleading for lower township taxes, said they created 7 million dollars of electricity, and had 6.5 millions dollars of expenses! (I would think they were lying or exaggerating, because that comes very natural to wind people). But I know they have a couple dozen workers, so that adds up a million dollars right there, at 50K per worker.
Here is a different side of Texas wind output.

NoFreeWind said...

Here is where you can see wind output in Ontario graphed against the load and other suppliers.
Notice Ontario has over 1,000 MW of installed wind and almost NO OUTPUT today. Click prevous day up top. You already know that this is the time of year, with average peak temps of the year right now, and there is no wind in Ontario. That just means wind there needs to be a ready 100% MW backup. Wind replaces no power plants, although it likely does replace SOME fossil fuel, at an enormous cost, and an enormous environmental cost.

Roger E. Sowell said...

Mr. NoFreeWind, I invite you to look around on this blog, and my legal website

for my views on nuclear. It is not a safe nor cost-effective means of generating power. Input nuclear into the search function.

And yes, I hold the views I do after decades of work in energy of almost every type. Wind works and works quite well where it is carefully sited and designed. The link for Texas shown on this post demonstrates that point very well. If wind doesn't make sense, as you stated, then why are so many private investors spending their money in building wind generators? Perhaps they know something that you do not.

Wind works quite well and has done so for many years in California, and is working quite well in Texas, just as it was designed to do. Nobody claims (at least at this time) that wind will provide reliable power, as needed and when needed. Please see my posting on Grid Scale Energy Storage. Energy storage is the key.

If you click the Texas wind link and watch it over time, you will see that wind provides as much as 8 percent of Texas total power demand. In a state as big as Texas, that is a lot of power, which reduces the consumption of a lot of natural gas. The Texas grid does not appear to be creaking under the strain.

To your point of wind not displacing power plants, that is not entirely true. Wind in California is used to pump water uphill into a pumped storage hydroelectric system just north of Los Angeles. Do an internet search for Castaic Lake hydroelectric. I believe the generator is 28 MW.

Perhaps the windfarm with poor economics in Pennsylvania should examine their issues, and sort them out. I suspect the snow and ice may be part of the problem. Pennsylvania should have plenty of mountains in which to build pumped storage hydroelectric that can be used with wind power.

Another suggestion of mine is the NEWTAP system to use wind-power in the Plains states to pump Missouri and Mississippi river water uphill to the continental divide in New Mexico, where it will flow by gravity to California, and generate power along the way in the existing hydroelectric plants at Lake Powell and Lake Mead. see