The rather dramatic fall-off in production (ie zero) the last 6 weeks has been frustrating. Unfortunately, various responsibilities are pulling me away from this blog. In that many of those responsibilities actually pay however, small as the stipend may be, they are taking precedent.
Still, I enjoy the process of blogging immensely (and even the challenge of building an audience person by person), and hope that I can re-start the process now. Here goes...
Finding Where the Wind Blows: (subs. required) a very interesting short piece covering some of the next stage of challenges facing the wind industry. On the plus side, who would've thought be get here a few years ago. On the down, these issues will grow increasingly prevalent as more renewable energy is added to the grid:
An electrical emergency in Texas last week has grid officials and power companies re-examining how they manage wind energy, an increasingly popular but potentially fickle power source.As always, where there are challenges, there are opportunities. A number of companies are developing innovative grid management technology, while others are seeking to get into the private weather monitoring game. Certainly weather derivatives could grow in prominence.
Wind turbines don't emit greenhouse gases, unlike conventional power plants. But wind power requires astute handling or it can affect reliability and power prices. Grid officials have fretted for some time that construction of enormous wind farms could jeopardize grid stability.
In response to its shortfall, Texas officials now are speeding up plans to improve wind forecasting. U.S. officials also are looking at other nations that manage far larger wind resources deftly. California's grid operator is seeking bids from wind consultants. It also is considering ways to tailor power consumption by big users so they could more closely match wind production, as well as ways to store wind energy for use later.
A cold front blew through West Texas on Feb. 26, temporarily lifting wind production. When it subsided, wind speeds dropped, turbines slowed and productivity dropped by 80% to 300 megawatts from about 1,700.The specifics of the situation demonstrate that for the first few decades of adoption, renewable energy will be have a much smaller marginal utility the further up the penetration curve one goes.
The situation was exacerbated by greater-than-expected energy demand and by lower availability of some fossil-fuel units. To get the system back in balance, the grid operator declared an emergency and tapped big customers who had agreed to be cut in exchange for cash payments.
And while scientists, utility executives, policy makers and some investors have been concerned about this phenomenon for a while, expect more focus as wind and solar become an increasingly prevalent phenomenon:
Nationally, grid operators have been notified that up to 147,000 megawatts of wind turbines may seek to connect to the grid in coming years, though a significant proportion won't get built. Currently, the U.S. has about 16,818 megawatts of wind capacity, enough to power 4.5 million homes, according to the American Wind Energy Association, a trade group. That amounts to less than 1% of U.S. power.One final note: Germany has a fascinating pilot program that seeks to solve this problem, which I blogged about here.
In California, there are plans to more than double wind capacity in the next few years once $1.8 billion in transmission upgrades are completed in the Tehachapi Mountains, which separate the northern and southern parts of the state.