An abrupt loss of 1,200 megawatts of wind energy production on Feb. 26 that caught the Electric Reliability Council of Texas Inc. by surprise and forced it to declare emergency conditions underscores a critical policy issue, according to a key industry official.
ERCOT said the sharp drop in production during a three-hour period – while overall electricity loads were increasing – threatened the stability of the power grid and could have caused rolling blackouts.
Commenting on Feb. 28 during the company’s fourth-quarter earnings conference call, according to a report from SNL Financial, David Crane, president and chief executive officer of New Jersey-based NRG Energy Inc., said the incident underscores the most critical energy policy issue facing the power industry.
“If a system can go unstable in the winter because 1,500 MW of expected wind turns into 400 MW wind and then fossil has to scramble to come online – and several of our plants had to scramble to fill the gap – that’s a big issue and there’s going to be a big debate,” Crane said.
Wind power levels often tend to drop off as the morning load increases and then pick up as the evening load declines.
ERCOT operators had expected wind power production to dip to 700 MW but production fell to 300 MW.
Operators implemented Step 2 of its emergency electric curtailment plan at 6:41 p.m. Most loads, according to the council, were restored and the grid’s operating reserves pushed back above 3,000 MW. Emergency conditions were cancelled at 9:40 p.m.
29 February 2008
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