“For several 15-minute intravals [last Friday] morning, wholesale electricity cost nothing,” Elizabeth Souder of dallasnews.com 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.
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