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    Electricity production in Texas could collapse


    August 12, 2022 - CE Noticias Financieras

     

      At a time when drought and high temperatures hit Texas, like the rest of the nation, electricity becomes a factor of survival and economic stability, warned ERCOT, the Electric Reliability Council of Texas, which operates the state's power grid.

      This was made known following the power generation outages that occurred twice last month, prompting it to urge Texans to reduce their electricity consumption to avoid a power emergency.

      Gas prices and difficulties in transmitting wind-generated power are the key. Nearly half of Texas' electricity is generated by power plants that run on the state's most dominant energy source, natural gas, and its price has risen more than 200 percent since late February, driving up household utility bills and of course consumer prices, the Texas Tribune reported from a series of interviews.

      While wind farms across the state account for nearly 21 percent of the state's electricity generation, combined with wind production near the Gulf of Mexico, Texas produced more than a quarter of the nation's wind electric generation last year. Wind power is one of the lowest-priced sources of energy because it is sold at fixed prices, the turbines do not use fuel to operate, and the federal government provides subsidies.

      "Other generation resources are more expensive than what - customers - would have gotten from wind generators if they could move them. That's the definition of transmission congestion. Because you can't move the cheapest electricity across the grid," said Michael Jewell an attorney specializing in the issue.

      A 2021 ERCOT report shows that there have been increases in stability constraints for wind power in recent years in both West and South Texas that have limited long-distance power transfer.

      One of the problems often raised with wind and solar farms is that they may not be able to produce as much power as the state needs all the time. Earlier this month, when ERCOT asked consumers to reduce electricity use, the agency referenced low wind generation and cloud cover in West Texas as factors contributing to a limited power supply.

      "Storage - of energy - is the real factor in the game changer because it can really help mediate and control a lot of the intermittency issues that a lot of people are concerned about when they think about wind and solar technology. So, being able to capture a lot of that solar energy that comes in around noon," Hensley said.

      Storage technology can help, but Hensley said transmission remains the most important factor to consider.

      Solar power is another resource that could help stabilize the grid. According to the Solar Energy Industries Association, Texas has about 13,947 megawatts of solar installed and more than 161,000 installations. That's enough to power more than 1.6 million homes.

      This month, the PUC formed a working group to develop a pilot program next year that would create a pathway for solar panels and batteries on small-scale systems, such as homes and businesses, to add that power to the grid. The program would make solar and batteries more affordable for customers, and would also pay customers to share their stored energy on the grid.

      Hensley noted that Texas has the most clean energy projects in the pipeline that will likely continue to put the region ahead of the pack when it comes to wind generation.

      "So already - wind towers - are ahead, and it looks like they're going to be even further ahead in six months or a year," but storage and transmission solutions must be found, the specialist said; today Texas has 16,737 wind generators, far outpacing other states, followed by Iowa with 6,538 and California with 5,665 towers.

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