Fort Worth, TX — Texas is expecting some of the hottest days of the year in the coming week, with temperatures predicted to rise into the triple digits. That, combined with forecasts of low wind conditions is expected to produce some energy challenges once again for the Lone Star State.
According to CBS News Texas, Dr. Todd Griffith, of the UT Dallas Wind Energy center says that the Texas grid operator must find other ways to make up the shortage when wind conditions are low. This typically involves ramping up production from natural gas, coal, and nuclear plants, as well as asking customers to conserve energy. Ramping up production from conventional power plants, combined with customers conserving electricity, should according to Dr. Griffith, get them through this triple digit heat wave.
There are, of course, a few problems here. The first is that coal plants and traditional nuclear plants are not particularly good at adjusting to sudden shortfalls in power due to massive sudden fluctuations in wind speed. The second is that asking coal plants, nuclear plants, and natural gas plants to do this is expensive. And these conventional plants are already having a tough time remaining competitive against heavily subsidized wind power. And third, there is only so much that the conventional plants can actually make up for before there simply isn’t enough capacity to go around.
According to the Texas government, Texas generates approximately 26% of its electricity from wind power. And yet, twice in recent history, it has had problems with rolling blackouts and skyrocketing electricity prices due to shortfalls in wind power, including an instance where Fort Hood Army base was billed $35.9 million dollars for one month of electricity–a bill that is being picked up by the taxpayers.
Iowa now generates more than 60% of its electricity from wind power. And we recently lost 601 MW of electricity production from the closure of the Duane Arnold nuclear power plant. How many wind turbines of the type being proposed for Buchanan County does it take to make up for that? If we make the reasonable assumption that wind turbines operate at an average of 30% capacity factor, it would take approximately 800 wind turbines to make up for the lost production from Duane Arnold.
Iowa is already grossly over-reliant on wind power for our electricity needs. We can’t afford to stake any more of our energy future on a technology as unreliable and unpredictable as wind power.