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Expert Interview: Deborah Le Vine

Yul meets Deborah Le Vine, Director of Grid Operations at CAISO (California Independent System Operator). Deborah is responsible for bringing power to thirty million Californians. She explains how, with their devoted team monitoring the ups and downs of wind power, they can balance the power supply. Surprisingly, too much wind can actually be a bad thing.

Deborah (asks technician): What’s going on with renewables now? [Click here to go to CAISO’s “Renewables Watch” page]

Technician: It’s exactly opposite of yesterday. The wind is at 140 megawatts. Yesterday it was about 2,000 megawatts.

Yul (narration): This brand new control room, which oversees most of the state’s electric grid, is the first in the country to have a team devoted to deciphering the ups and downs of wind power. But there’s a lot they simply can’t control.

Deborah: If the wind blows too hard – 50 miles per hour – the wind turbines stop.

Yul: … So then what happens?

Deborah: We need to make it up. People still want their electricity, so we need to have fossil generation on standby able to pick up to ensure that the demand is still served.

Yul: You actually have to have more conventional power sources on line to pick up the slack if the wind dies?

Deborah: We’ll need something to pick up the slack if the wind dies. Mother nature is always going to be mother nature – you can’t count on it.