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Clean Power wind turbines set new electricity generation record in texas

Published on October 20th, 2011 | by Zachary Shahan


Wholesale Price of Electricity Drops to $0.00 in Texas, Due to Wind Energy

October 20th, 2011 by  

wind turbines set new electricity generation record in texas

“For several 15-minute intravals [last Friday] morning, wholesale electricity cost nothing,” Elizabeth Souder of reported last Friday. Interesting, eh? If you’re a regular CleanTechnica reader (or if you read the headline…), I think you can guess why. Yes, wind power being cheap as heck, the wind blowing strong at night, and less electricity demand is the mixture that caused this to happen.

As I’ve said many times on here, Wind.Is.Cheap. Additionally, as I covered earlier this year, wind power is making electricity cheaper.

More from Souder, explaining how cheap wind power can drive the wholesale price of electricity down to $0.00 (and occasionally does in Texas):

According to the Electric Reliability Council of Texas, demand for the state’s grid dipped below 25,000 megawatts. Compare that to the highest demand ever, on the afternoon of August 3, at 68,379 megawatts.

Power generators bid their prices into the wholesale market. ERCOT calls on power plants to turn on as demand rises during the course of the day, calling on the lowest bids first, and then higher bids.

Wind gets dispatched first, because it is the cheapest power generation to operate. So when the wind kicks up, and turbines begin turning, some higher-priced generators may be told to turn off.

On a night when demand is low and wind is high, even some coal and nuclear power units that typically run constantly aren’t needed. It can be difficult to turn those plants back on when they are entirely off, so the owners will make very low bids – even zero — into the wholesale market to keep the plants going at low output.

And that, according to ERCOT market monitor Dan Jones, is exactly what happened on Thursday night.

Now, combine some solar power (which matches wind well since it is most available during the day), potentially some geothermal or hydro (maybe even small hydro), some other clean energy options, some energy storage, and a grid that can more easily shift electricity around, and I think you got quite a clean and cheap power supply. (Some have shown how it could even be 100% clean by 2030.)

Also, I think it’s worth point something out here. Wind and solar are “hard” to integrate into our current electricity grid because our electricity grid is based around power plants that are hard to turn on (or, take a long time to do so). I think anyone with the able to think can identify that taking a long time to turn on is not a plus. (How would you like it if your car took half an hour or so to turn on?) While solar and wind energy are “intermittent,” with a good mixture of energy sources, an easy-to-manage grid, and some energy storage, the sources with the very clear handicap are the ones with this long start-up problem.

Photo Credit: AttributionNoncommercial Some rights reserved by danishwindindustryassociation

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About the Author

is tryin' to help society help itself (and other species) with the power of the word. He spends most of his time here on CleanTechnica as its director and chief editor, but he's also the president of Important Media and the director/founder of EV Obsession and Solar Love. Zach is recognized globally as a solar energy, electric car, and energy storage expert. He has presented about cleantech at conferences in India, the UAE, Ukraine, Poland, Germany, the Netherlands, the USA, and Canada. Zach has long-term investments in TSLA, FSLR, SPWR, SEDG, & ABB — after years of covering solar and EVs, he simply has a lot of faith in these particular companies and feels like they are good cleantech companies to invest in. But he offers no professional investment advice and would rather not be responsible for you losing money, so don't jump to conclusions.

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  • Anonymous

    A Business analogy. If you had a Donut shop and you produced a great product, then the State made a special rule that you must not sell your Great Donuts over your own counter, not only that, but any production must be surrendered to your giant monopolist local grocery store for less than wholesale prices? How long could you afford to stay in the donut business? Not Long!
    That’s what the regulated energy market does to the Renewable System Owners –in my State.
    How can the average small generator/home owner afford a huge investment in solar or wind just to not be allowed to compete on what should be a free market?

    Will retail customers/consumers see any benefit in reduced Kwh prices or will the profit margins of the monopolistic utilities and its stockholders dividends increase?

    • Look into our raisin producers. Did you know they surrender a portion of their crop to the gubment?

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  • Anonymous

    OK, this should allow renewables to become an even larger portion of the grid input in areas where coal is still a major player. Renewables could generate, at peak, half of the output of existing coal plants and the coal plants could be dialed back which would save fuel and reduce CO2 emissions.

  • Vandammes

    The next thing you’ll see in Texas are water towers and artificial lakes, fed by reversible pumps. If they can find some water. (Maybe we can build a pipeline from New England.)

  • Susan Kraemer

    “our electricity grid is based around power plants that are hard to turn on (or, take a long time to do so). I think anyone with the able to think can identify that taking a long time to turn on is not a plus. (How would you like it if your car took half an hour or so to turn on?)”

    Zach, that is a great analogy, but do you have a link for that fact that our grid is based around the traditional “hard to turn on” power plants? I had never heard of that. Is there some way that the grid needs or prefers that power be hard to turn on / take a while to start up? I know that coal and gas plants are inconvenient to shut down, but did not know there was a problem on the firing up side too but especially, I need to understand how the grid favors that.

    • Anonymous

      Steam turbines — used in coal, combined-cycle gas, nuclear, & solar thermal plants — take a while to warm up from cold to superheated (several hundred degrees C). Going too fast risks damage as the metal parts heat up unevenly or steam condenses in the turbine. Once they’re going, you can vary their power output fairly quickly over the top part of their range.

      Open-cycle gas turbines can start up much faster, but they’re fuel hogs so they’re only used when needed.

      • Anonymous

        Sometime back I was looking at data from power plants in Ontario and their coal plants were taking about eight hours to go from cold to full output. Nuclear plants can take two or three days to reach full speeds after a shut down.

        If you look at the distribution of where we get our power then you can get some feeling for how much of our power is non-dispatchable. In 2009 the US got 45% of it’s electricity from coal, 20% from nuclear, and 23% from natural gas. I don’t have a breakdown for gas to tell how much is dispatchable and how much not.

        Our grid doesn’t need power sources that are long to turn on, that’s just been the way we’ve created our supply sources. Fossil fuels were cheap and we didn’t comprehend the hidden health and environmental costs.

        Our future grid will be supplied by some sources over which we have no timing control. The Sun comes up on its own schedule and the Moon controls the tides. That means we will need to rethink how we control supply. We’ll have to build more storage and more dispatchable supply. We’ll also need to load shift in order to take advantage of extra power when it is given to us and reduce loads when renewables are not providing as much.

        • Anonymous

          Just some more startup times I’ve found….

          Two US nuclear plants which have been offline for a couple of months following an earthquake in Virginia which triggered shut down are being fired back up. The operator has stated that it will take a week to bring each to full power.

          According to this well-written site it takes 10 – 20 minutes to bring a gas turbine to operating speed. If it’s part of a combined cycle plant where the waste heat from the turbine is used to boil water and the resulting steam used to make additional power that steam system can take 1.5 to 3 hours to reach full output. Steam accounts for about 1/3rd of the total output from a combined cycle gas plant.

          In terms of being dispatchable it seems nothing beats batteries and hydro. Gas turbines are perhaps the next fastest. Perhaps Bill can supply us with some performance characteristics for getting coal from 50% to 100%.

    • Anonymous

      Sorry, Susan, I think I didn’t state that 100% clearly.

      Points were:

      1. our utility companies are not used to options like solar and wind — they plan based on how coal & nuclear work. this gets discussed in this very interesting utility company ceo roundtable, though, and solutions are already available and starting to be used some places:

      2. being hard to turn on is not a benefit.

      it is more about their habits in planning and thinking, nothing regarding (non-existent) technological benefits of taking forever to start.

      (shocking the time frames Bob mentions there on how long it can take nukes & coal to start up).

      i’ll also note that in that discussion above, due to how utilities have operated, they see solar and wind’s variability as a weakness, but that is shifting amongst leaders in the field as they see a more distributed network as having more important benefits (including national security and power security in strong, disruptive storms). even the DoD and former head of the CIA have made this point.

  • Electric38

    Consumer owned rooftop solar has way less moving parts. It is noiseless. It is a proven jobs provider. It is dropping in price every day. It free’s the consumer from future power/utility bills, therefore helping the long term economy. It provides a ready, local infrastructure for electric cars. It keeps consumers away from gas pumps (monopoly), utilities (monopoly), bankers (via free energy from sunlight after ROI), military expenditures (due to oil price protecting in the mid east) and other similar money grubbers.

    • Anonymous

      We like solar here, too 😀

      Actually, write about it more than anything else.

      (Wind, at the present moment, though, is cheaper. Not that price is the only factor. But I think both have a good place in our needed energy mix.)

  • Anonymous

    I wonder who made up the numbers used for the bar graphs. They are so wrong.

    Coal, obviously health costs are not included, but that’s nothing new.

    Nuclear, that’s “old nukes”, nothing close to the cost of what power from a newly built reactor would cost. Run that bar up between 15 and 20 cents, if not higher. And I doubt the subsidies that nuclear receives are included.

    Wind, just pointing out that those prices are sans subsidies and the price of wind is almost certainly going to fall over time, not stay the same.

    Coal/CCS – to dream the impossible dream.

    Solar, so very, very bogus. Solar prices are rapidly dropping, will continue to drop. Some people are predicting solar as cheap as coal (old, dirty, no-hidden-cost-included coal) in no more than five years.

    “*Wind and solar exclude costs for backup capacity and additional transmission”. Holy crap, Batman!

    There’s no need to build backup capacity for wind and solar. We just turn down dispatchables like gas and hydro. Save fuel and save water power for other times of day. All new generation requires new transmission to be built. Rooftop solar requires no new transmission.

    Later on, sometime after 2025 we may need to build storage to shift very cheap wind and very cheap solar power into times when wind and solar are not producing. I’ll bet good money that we won’t be building new capacity in those days. We almost certainly will have come to our senses and will be actively avoiding generating any new CO2. Already storage is as cheap as power from gas peakers.

    I’m guessing there’s a connection between this graph and coal money.

    • Anonymous

      I mention in the article that it’s from Exxon, and mention that the solar projections seem way off, but if you missed that, my guess is plenty of others would do… so, i think i’ll just pull the graph 😀

      • Anonymous

        What! After my righteous rant?

        All that energy wasted….. ;o)

        (Goes to show you that I don’t always read carefully, eh?)

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