ERCOT: Power grid becoming more stable as gas, solar, wind grow
Fears that Texas might not have enough electricity in the years ahead have all but been extinguished by a flood of new gas turbines and solar and wind farms, the state’s grid operator said Tuesday.
In a report examining the grid’s power supply and consumer demand over the next decade, the Electric Reliability Council of Texas said its reserve margin – the percentage of electricity available above what is used – will exceed 20 percent by 2017. The current minimum reserve level is 13.75 percent, a standard ERCOT almost failed to meet in the summer of 2014.
One of the principal drivers is a sudden boom in solar energy development in West Texas. Only expected to account for 295 megawatts next year – on a grid with a capacity of more than 79,000 megawatts – solar should account for almost 1,789 megawatts by 2017, ERCOT said.
Likewise, natural gas-fired capacity is scheduled to grow 1 percent to more than 51,000 megawatts. Wind capacity is expected to grow 45 percent to more than 4,200 megawatts in 2017 – factoring in ERCOT’s estimates on how wind patterns.
“We continue to see the demand for electricity here increase as more people and businesses move into Texas,” ERCOT Director of System Planning Warren Lasher said Tuesday. “To meet this growing demand, the generation mix is also growing and changing.”
The rosy outlook on the state’s power reserves stands in stark contrast to warnings two years ago Texas might soon be subjected to rolling blackouts. With power plant construction slow and a booming population, in 2013 ERCOT officials said power reserves were likely to shrink in the years ahead.
But as the state’s utility board considered overhauling the power market, some lawmakers and business executives questioned whether ERCOT was overestimating power demand growth. Following a lengthy review, the agency revised it standards last year to show earlier predictions were too grim.