Texas sets wind power records with new grid analysis

Reuters • Posted: Monday, March 12, 2012

HOUSTON, March 9 (Reuters) – Texas set new records for wind-power output this week using a new transmission analysis tool that allows more wind to flow on power lines from west Texas to power-consuming cities hundreds of miles away, the state grid operator said.

The amount of electricity produced from wind on Wednesday evening set a record at 7,599 megawatts, up 196 MW from the previous day, which eked past a 7,400-MW record set last October, the Electric Reliability Council of Texas (ERCOT) said in a statement.

On Wednesday night, electricity was being produced by more than 77 percent of the 9,838 MW of ERCOT’s installed wind capacity, well above the average 30 to 40 percent of nameplate electric capacity that wind farms typically produce

“March is typically a high-wind month for ERCOT, but these new records are also due in part to a new transmission analysis tool we started using this week that allows us to move more wind energy from the west zone,” said Kent Saathoff, ERCOT’s director of grid operations and system planning.

ERCOT began using a new tool this week to calculate day-ahead and real-time limits on power lines from west Texas to the Dallas-Fort Worth area.

“The new tool runs an analysis on real-time conditions every 30 minutes so it gives us a more fine-tuned analysis,” Saathoff said

With more than 9,800 MW, Texas leads the nation in carbon-free electric capacity from wind turbines. More than 7,500 MW are located in west Texas, where the wind generally blows the strongest during the evening hours and in the spring and fall months when power demand is low.

Recent wind-farm additions, now totaling nearly 2,100 MW, or 21 percent, have been built closer to the Texas coast, south of Corpus Christi where wind patterns differ from west Texas.

About 13 percent of the record 7,599 MW produced March 7 came from the coastal wind farms, ERCOT said.

At the time of the latest record, wind generation accounted for 22 percent of the power demand of 34,318 MW, the grid agency said.

ERCOT added 9 MW of coastal wind generation in February with the addition of the Harbor Wind facility in Nueces County.

Duke Energy’s renewable unit expects to add 402 MW at its coastal wind project in Willacy County by late 2012.

Wind farms expanded rapidly in Texas until 2009 when production began to overwhelm the existing transmission capacity available to move the power from remote areas of west Texas to large cities – such as Dallas and San Antonio – that consume the power.

Texas is building more than 2,300 miles (3,700 km) of high-voltage transmission in a $6.5 billion plan to expand the grid by late 2013 to accommodate wind-farm growth of up to 18,500 MW.

Current wind-farm construction has slowed and a number of projects were canceled. Developers are studying the addition of 18,000 MW of wind in Texas, down from 34,000 MW of wind last fall.