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West Texas breezes push wind power to set a record on the grid

Feb 9, 2010 - Jack Z. Smith - McClatchy-Tribune Regional News

With strong breezes blowing early Sunday afternoon in West Texas, wind-power generation hit a record 6,242 megawatts on the Electric Reliability Council of Texas' grid, which serves most of the state.

The wind generation peaked at 12:54 p.m., representing an exceptionally high 22 percent of demand at that time, ERCOT spokeswoman Dottie Roark said Monday. Most of the wind facilities are in West Texas and the Panhandle.

Roy Blackshear, manager of the AEP Desert Sky Wind Farm near Iraan in Pecos County, a 107-turbine, 160.5-megawatt facility, said he was "really surprised" to see that wind's share of the power load hit 22 percent.

"It proves we're going to be able to use renewables effectively. ... It's huge," he said of the growing capability of generation from renewable energy sources such as wind and solar.

The previous record high for wind generation on the ERCOT grid was 6,223 megawatts, set Oct. 28, Roark said.

After the wind generation soared Sunday, ERCOT curtailed it because the supply of electricity outstripped the capacity of lines to move the power to urban areas such as Dallas-Fort Worth.

"We have more wind [generation] built in the west than can be accommodated on the existing transmission lines," Roark said. That's why ERCOT is overseeing a huge $5 billion project to build more lines from wind farms to the state's metropolitan areas, she said.

As a result of the power constraints, the market price for wind power generated in ERCOT'S western zone fell to negative numbers early Sunday afternoon.

That meant "wind generators would have to actually pay to continue generation," said Mack Grady, a professor of electric and computer engineering at the University of Texas at Austin.

Texas has a total wind capacity of 9,410 megawatts, of which 8,916 megawatts is in ERCOT, Roark said. ERCOT's wind capacity accounts for more than 10 percent of the grid's total available generating capacity of 76,363 megawatts.

Texas ranks No. 1 among states in wind power, according to the American Wind Energy Association's annual report released in late January.

JACK Z. SMITH, 817-390-7724


Updated: 2016/06/30

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