Photo by Brian Zinchuk

Two of the most energy rich jurisdictions on the planet, Texas and Alberta, have built out tremendous wind and solar power generation as part of their grid, and in the last year, both have seen grid alerts issued on days that wind power generation collapses. That’s what was happening in the Lone Star State on Sunday.

Most of Texas has its own electrical grid, separate from the rest of North America, known as ERCOT.

And on Sunday afternoon, that grid was in trouble, as its mammoth buildout of wind power generation was not producing enough to meet demand. And demand was high, as the state goes through a heat wave. On Aug. 26, Dallas/Fort Worth hit record-setting high temperatures, according the the Associated Press.

ERCOT is the Electric Reliability Council of Texas (ERCOT). ERCOT is the independent system operator for 90 percent of the state’s electric load. (The northern part of the the Texas Panhandle belongs to the Southwest Power Pool, which is the same grid SaskPower has a 150 megawatt interconnect with, south of Estevan.)

ERCOT released the following tweets on Sunday:

What does that mean? ERCOT’s projections for later in the day showed that at 6:15 p.m. central time, available capacity was projected to be 80,757 megawatts, while committed capacity forecast was 79,438 megawatt and demand forecast was 78,814 megawatts. That’s cutting pretty close to the bone, as the typical standard is to have a four per cent reserve. The difference between the available capacity and demand was only projected to be 2.4 per cent, or 1,943 megawatts. That’s also right around the time the sun starts setting and solar production drops like a stone. And wind projections for the following day were expected to be even lower during the mid-day.

As of 4:40 p.m. on Sunday, ERCOT was looking down the barrel of a power shortage, for reserves at least. ERCOT

ERCOT’s website said:

“Higher demand forecasted with a potential to enter emergency operations due to lower reserves”

“ERCOT requests Texans conserve power during a specific appeal period, if safe to do so.

“ERCOT requests all government agencies (including city and county offices) to implement any and all programs to reduce energy use at their facilities.”

As thermal power generation, especially coal, has fallen out of favour, it has been scaled back in Texas while the state has seen a tremendous build out of wind and solar. This is very similar to what has been happening in Alberta, and a path Saskatchewan has started to follow. However, as in Alberta, on days the wind does not blow, the grid has become increasingly in peril, as has occurred in Texas on Aug. 27. Alberta issued five “grid alerts” of a similar nature over a three week period last November-December, each time when wind power generation had flatlined. It happened again in Alberta on June 7, 2023.

If those Texas “conservation appeals” look familiar, it’s because they’re almost identical to the “grid alerts” issued by the Alberta Electric System Operator, such as this one issued Dec. 21, 2022. It was the second one issued in one day, the third within 24 hours.

Indeed, on Dec. 1, the AESO put out a tweet suggesting people should not use their dishwashers at supper time.

 

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Electrical grid alert for Alberta issued Wednesday afternoon due to low wind, high temps and an outage

Alberta issues second “grid alert” in one day, the third in 24 hours, and fifth in three weeks, and sets another demand record