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Tuesday, October 4, 2022
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High Plains Turbines Idle When Power Grid Travails


Wind Turbines with old oil well pump in Sweetwater, Texas | Image by Shutterstock

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Everything is bigger in Texas— so the saying goes— and that includes wind power.

The Lone Star State leads the country in total wind energy production, producing more than twice as much as the next state, according to Commodity.com. In Texas, the annual wind energy production (MWh) is 83,620,371; the change in wind energy production since 2010 (MWh) is 57,368,961; the wind share of total energy production is 17.3%, and the wind share of total renewable energy production is 92.0%, the report explains.

The Texas High Plains region, which includes 41 counties in the Texas Panhandle and West Texas, has the most wind turbines of any area in the state, with over 11,000 installed, reported the Texas Tribune.

However, a significant portion of the electricity generated in the High Plains remains in the region because it cannot be moved elsewhere. Despite Texas’ growing wind energy production, the state’s transmission network would require significant infrastructure upgrades to ship out the energy generated in the region.

Wind energy could be generated in the region to power at least 9 million homes. The extra energy could help provide much-needed stability to the electric grid during high-energy-demand summers like this one and lower Texans’ power bills in other parts of the state.

Summer heat waves are straining the Texas power grid. Power demand is increasing as people turn up their air conditioners. Meanwhile, according to Bloomberg, wind speeds had plummeted to deficient levels; the state’s turbine fleet was producing only 8% of its maximum capacity.

Texas residents were asked in late July to reduce their power consumption from 2 p.m. to 8 p.m., as the state’s electric utility warned that low windspeeds threatened the power grid’s reliability, according to The Dallas Express.

When the rest of Texas is asked to conserve energy to help stabilize the grid, the high plains must turn off turbines to limit excessive wind production, The Texas Tribune reported.

“We’re at a moment when wind is at its peak production profile, but we see a lot of wind energy being curtailed or congested and not able to flow through to some of the higher-population areas,” John Hensley, vice president for research and analytics at the American Clean Power Association, told the Texas Tribune. He said that is “a loss for ratepayers and a loss for those energy consumers that now have to either face conserving energy or paying more for the energy they do use because they don’t have access to that lower-cost wind resource.”

The Electric Reliability Council of Texas (ERCOT) has conducted Panhandle region-wide studies since 2016 to assess the weak grid conditions and the proper threshold for metrics. In their May ’22 report, the council determined that increased stability constraints for wind energy in recent years in both West and South Texas have limited the long-distance power transference.

“The transmission constraints are such that energy can’t reach the load centers. [High Plains wind power] might be able to make it to Lubbock, but it may not be able to make it to Dallas, Fort Worth, Houston, or Austin,” Michael Jewel, an energy lawyer, told The Texas Tribune. “This is not an insignificant problem— it is costing Texans a lot of money.”

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1 month ago

Those turbines are spinning briskly in October and April when nobody can put what they generate to any use.

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