Why High Plains turns off wind turbines when grid is stressed
- Aug 5, 2022 2:12 pm GMT
The region could generate enough wind energy to power at least 9 million homes. Experts say the additional energy could help provide much-needed stability to the electric grid during high energy-demand summers like this one, and even lower the power bills of Texans in other parts of the state.
But a significant portion of the electricity produced in the High Plains stays there for a simple reason: It can't be moved elsewhere. Despite the growing development of wind energy production in
"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," said
And when the rest of the state is asked to conserve energy to help stabilize the grid, the High Plains has to turn off turbines to limit wind production it doesn't need.
"Because there's not enough transmission to move it where it's needed,
Texans have already had a few energy scares this year amid scorching temperatures and high energy demand to keep homes cool. The
The energy supply issues have hit Texans' wallets as well. Nearly half of
Wind farms across the state account for nearly 21% of the state's power generation.
Wind energy is one of the lowest-priced energy sources because it is sold at fixed prices, turbines do not need fuel to run and the federal government provides subsidies. Texans who get their energy from wind farms in the High Plains region usually pay less for electricity than people in other areas of the state. But with the price of natural gas increasing from inflation, Jewell said areas where wind energy is not accessible have to depend on electricity that costs more.
"Other generation resources are more expensive than what [customers] would have gotten from the wind generators if they could move it," Jewell said. "That is the definition of transmission congestion. Because you can't move the cheaper electricity through the grid."
"The transmission constraints are such that energy can't make it to the load centers. (High Plains wind power) might be able to make it to
Some wind farms in the High Plains foresaw there would be a need for transmission.
But Jewell said high energy demand and costs this summer show there's a need to build additional transmission lines to move more wind energy to other areas of the state.
Jewell said the
"It does take a lot of time to figure it out — you're talking about a transmission line that's going to be in service for 40 or 50 years, and it's going to cost hundreds of millions of dollars," Jewell said. "You want to be sure that the savings outweigh the costs, so it is a longer process. But we need more transmission in order to be able to move more energy. This state is growing by leaps and bounds."
A report by the
The report concluded that "the failures that caused overwhelming human and economic suffering during February will increase in frequency and duration due to legacy market design shortcomings, growing infrastructure interdependence, economic and population growth drivers, and aging equipment even if the frequency and severity of weather events remains unchanged."
The report also stated that while transmission upgrades across the state have generally been made in a timely manner, it's been challenging to add infrastructure where there has been rapid growth, like in the High Plains.
This has led to a boom in wind farms, even with transmission issues. Since 2010, wind energy generation in
One of the issues often brought up with wind and solar farms is that they may not be able to produce as much energy as the state needs all of the time. Earlier this month, when
Hensley said this is where battery storage stations can help. According to the
"Storage is the real game-changer because it can really help to mediate and control a lot of the intermittency issues that a lot of folks worry about when they think about wind and solar technology," Hensley said. "So being able to capture a lot of that solar that comes right around noon to (
Storage technology can help, but Hensley said transmission is still the big factor to consider.
Get Published - Build a Following
The Energy Central Power Industry Network is based on one core idea - power industry professionals helping each other and advancing the industry by sharing and learning from each other.
If you have an experience or insight to share or have learned something from a conference or seminar, your peers and colleagues on Energy Central want to hear about it. It's also easy to share a link to an article you've liked or an industry resource that you think would be helpful.