Fine-tuning renewables could help Texas balance energy resources
Timing and placement of wind and solar power facilities are critical factors for Texas electricity providers that juggle their output with other resources to provide a balanced flow of energy. Rice University researchers have some suggestions on how they can integrate widely varying sources more efficiently.
Rice undergraduate student Joanna Slusarewicz, along with environmental engineer Daniel Cohan, performed an analysis of recent peaks in production from West and South Texas renewable resources and suggested that the state’s power production can be made more reliable by adjusting where and when those resources are deployed.
Their open-access paper is published in Renewables: Wind, Water and Solar.
While established wind and a growing set of solar generators provided about 18 percent of Texas’ power in 2017, judicious use could help those resources punch above their weight as coal-fired power plants leave the landscape, the researchers wrote. (Three Texas coal plants have closed this year and a fourth closure is anticipated.)
Slusarewicz studied weather data from the National Renewable Energy Laboratory and records compiled by the nonprofit Electric Reliability Council of Texas (ERCOT) from 2007 to 2013 that tracked wind power from West and South Texas as well as statewide commercial solar generation. She determined the most reliable power production going forward will come from the combination of solar and West Texas wind, but coastal wind has a significant role to play as well.
Her conclusions showed that while ERCOT is conservative in its estimates of peak generation from West Texas wind during both summer and winter, producers could get the best bang for their energy bucks by adding coastal wind production. South Texas’ coastal winds, she found, are most active when power is needed most, at peak usage on hot summer days.
Slusarewicz found little difference in solar power’s peak contribution whether it came from panels that move on two axes to more accurately track the sun through its arc rather than 1-axis systems that merely track east to west. She also found that combining the output of wind and solar facilities can enhance their firm capacity, a measure of the amount of power the sites can reasonably guarantee.