The best example for the integration of green power … as well as for unreliability

In the previous post I learned about how a grid that integrates renewable sources should work, at least according to someone who doesn’t believe in base load in power generation,. The surprising example was: Texas. It was called the “best example in the United States”. Surprising because I don’t associate Texas with wind and solar, but rather with fossil fuels. And it was true, many sites seems to glorify the capacity of their grid to absorb intermittent energy. They also gave the example of Texas absorbing 22-24% of green energy in 2012 and probably could absorb to one third.

That is all nice of course. But it also means that two thirds of their power generation should be other technology than wind/solar. My guess is fossil fuels.

But then I googled the reliability of the Texas grid. I immediately found the NY Times article that the Texas power grid ranks LAST in electrical power reliability. Why didn’t that surprise me. It linked to NERC report 2012 Summer reliability report. NERC stands for “North American Electrical Reliability Cooperation”. When they mentioned Texas in the report some really worrying statements were made:

“Extreme weather could lead to stressed conditions in Southern California and Texas; planned interruptions of firm load in Texas and Southern California may be necessary”

“Depending on summer conditions, demand response may be used more often this summer in areas with tight margins, such as Texas and Southern California.”

“Tight reserve margins will impact the ERCOT system operator’s flexibility to deal with unexpected or more extreme situations (i.e., significant generator outages and/or higher than expected demand).”

“Depending on summer conditions, demand response may be used more often this summer in areas with tight margins, such as Texas and Southern California.”

“Weather experienced during the 2010/2011 winter in Texas serves as an example of extreme weather, when temperatures dropped to a level that does not often occur. The prolonged and extreme temperatures in Texas significantly stressed the power system, which resulted in the calling of two “Alert 2″ level Energy Emergency Alerts (EEAs).”

Also California got several honorable mentions here. Aren’t they the other great example for promoting renewables?

In the winter of 2011 there was indeed a blackout in Texas, but I also found several mentions of brownouts and also a near blackout in the beginning 2014, just averted by asking consumers to not consume at peak hours. That doesn’t seem like a really stable grid. A few things I recognize were the decreasing reliability of the grid, the call to have possible controlled blackouts in order to save the grid,… We are going through that very same process.

Hey, shouldn’t technology be about making things MORE reliable and LESS dependent on external influences? Now we see an evolution to the exact opposite! Are we really, really sure that the technology is ready for the conversion? Looking at such statements, it really doesn’t seems like it.

It is funny though. in that post Texas was claimed to be “the best” example in the US for integration of wind and solar, but at the exact same time it was also considered the least reliable one. That integration seems to come with a price and for some mysterious reason all those glorifying reports didn’t even bother to mention this tiny little detail…

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