Today’s I Told You So

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The electrical grid operator in Texas  had to invoke stage two emergency load shedding when the wind suddenly stopped. When the 1,700 MW of wind generation suddenly dropped to 300, they had a big problem and had nothing more to put into the grid as the frequency began to drop. By quickly cutting off large industrial customers, they managed to keep the grid from going down.

HOUSTON (Reuters) – A drop in wind generation late on Tuesday, coupled with colder weather, triggered an electric emergency that caused the Texas grid operator to cut service to some large customers, the grid agency said on Wednesday.

Electric Reliability Council of Texas (ERCOT) said a decline in wind energy production in west Texas occurred at the same time evening electric demand was building as colder temperatures moved into the state.

The grid operator went directly to the second stage of an emergency plan at 6:41 PM CST (0041 GMT), ERCOT said in a statement.

System operators curtailed power to interruptible customers to shave 1,100 megawatts of demand within 10 minutes, ERCOT said. Interruptible customers are generally large industrial customers who are paid to reduce power use when emergencies occur.

No other customers lost power during the emergency, ERCOT said. Interruptible customers were restored in about 90 minutes and the emergency was over in three hours.

ERCOT said the grid's frequency dropped suddenly when wind production fell from more than 1,700 megawatts, before the event, to 300 MW when the emergency was declared.

I have explained why this can happen before, of course. It will get worse as fewer and fewer reliable production facilities are constructed and more and more fickle generation is mandated.

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6 Responses to Today’s I Told You So

  1. Sir Oolius says:

    Traditional sources were also incapable of providing power during the peak surge Tuesday–it’s not like they don’t have coal fired plants in Texas!  Speaking of Tuesday: that’s the very same day 3 million customers lost power in Florida because traditional sources of nuclear, nat. gas, and coal had a hickup. 

  2. Gaius says:

    They did not have sufficient fossil/nuclear generation or they would not have load shed. And you’ve got the cart before the horse on Florida. A grid disturbance caused the generating facilities to trip off. This is meant to protect the generation and is planned and engineered into the systems.

  3. David M says:

    The Thunder Run has linked to this post in the – <a href=""> Web Reconnaissance for 02/29/2008 </a> A short recon of what’s out there that might draw your attention, updated throughout the day…so check back often.

  4. sam says:

    Sounds like they didn’t have enough spinning reserves on line to handle the loss of wind generation.  Coal and nuclear generation can’t ramp fast enough to follow short term load fluctuations, you need gas fired generation (CT or CC) and hydro to do that.  I don’t know about gas units, but there isn’t much Hydro in the ERCOT region.

  5. Sir Oolius says:

    The point was that it’s rather silly to suggest that wind is fickle, when on that day the [lack of] wind-related outage affected virtually no one yet the outage involving [though tangentially] traditional power plants affected millions.  That having been said, our grid needs some work.  I’d probably go more for additional distributed generation capacity, you’d probably go more for additional lines, we’ll split the difference and come out ahead. 

  6. Gaius says:

    No, Oolius. Unless the generation is reliable, distributing it does not help the situation. If the power source is fickle – dependent on the wind or the sun – it has to be backed up by a reliable source. Those backups have to be up and running – they cannot come on line fast enough (that spinning reserve that Sam mentions.). There are likely several generating stations down for maintenance at this time of year – which is generally not a time of peak demands.

    This is my field, Oolius. This is what I do, power engineering.

    Side note to Sam. Most coal stations can (and do) load-follow. Nuclear stations are base load. The early GE BWRs were originally planned as load followers, but the NRC had an issue  with non-licensed load dispatchers controlling them. (A position I agree with.)

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