ERCOT latest planning documents shows more gains for Wind, Solar

It ain’t the most exciting meeting in the world, but once a month, I attend the “Reliability and Operations Subcommittee” at the Electric Reliability Council of Texas, which runs the Texas electric grid.

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And once a month, our group – composed of generators, consumers, market players, retailers and wires companies among others — gets a monthly planning update known officially as the “System Planning Monthly Status Report.” Click here for access to the report itself.

And that report not only shows how much energy was used in ERCOT that month, it also shows how much from various types of resources, and more importantly, what resources — be they wind, solar, storage, gas, or coal — will be serving future loads. All of those proposed projects must go through financing, environmental permitting, and a complicated registration and study process with local wires companies known as an “Interconnection Agreement.” Even getting an approved interconnection agreement done is no guarantee a project will be built, because environmental permits, financing and market conditions still must exist for a project to move forward. Just ask the developers behind coal projects like Las Brisas and White Stallion where their projects are today. Fortunately, market conditions and a spirited citizen’s campaign, including the Sierra Club, helped doom those projects.

So what do the latest figures tell us? They suggest that there are some 13,000 MWs of proposed energy projects that have already signed an Interconnection Agreement or are in the process of getting an interconnection agreement (some 31,000). Of those, only two projects – the Summit Power Plant in West Texas and the  Sandy Creek project — are coal, and that represents only about 1,000 MWs of power, a relatively modest amount. In fact, there are slightly more MWs composed of solar projects in the process — at 1,264 MWs — than coal. Just last month, the White Camp Solar project in the panhandle became the first proposed solar plant in Texas of at least 100 MWs to officially sign an interconnection agreement with American Electric Power, which runs the electric grid in that area of the state. There is also almost 1,000 MWs of storage being looked at, and get this — some 22,000 MWs of wind power, much of which is located along the coast. The rest – about 19,000 MWs — is gas, much of intended only to meet peaking power needs.

The wind story is impressive and the ERCOT document further reports that if all of the wind projects with signed interconnection agreements actually go forward, wind production within ERCOT would go from about 10,500 MWs today to some 15,000 MWs in 2015. Currently, that wind is providing anywhere from a fraction of Texas’s electricity needs, to some 35% on certain days when the wind blows hard, particularly in the spring.

Fuel Type

Confidential Projects (MW)

Projects Under Full Study (MW)

Public Projects (MW)

Suspended Studies (MW)

Grand Total (MW)

Gas-AllOther                         449                         –              6,903
Gas-CombinedCycle                     6,506                         –            12,457
    Total Gas               2,615                   9,790                     6,955                         –            19,360
Nuclear                      –                          –                            –                         –                     –
Coal                      –                          –                     1,165                         –              1,165
Wind               2,748                 13,859                     5,062                         –            21,669
Solar                   395                       719                         150                         –              1,264
Biomass                      –                          –                            –                         –                     –
Storage                      –                       874                           40                         –                  914
Petroleum Coke                      –                          –                            –                         –                     –
Grand Total               5,758                 25,242                   13,372                         –            44,372

Source: ERCOT, Summary of Generation Interconnection Requests, June, 2013.

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