A year ago, I wrote an article about the Dumb Grid, complaining that the reason that many utilities find wind power so hard to integrate is because they aren’t using any brains. I used the infamous Feb 2008 incident when wind power in Texas dropped right as demand picked up because of a cold front to make my case: Both the rise in demand and the drop in wind power were predictable consequences of the cold front, but the ERCOT controllers were not using that weather information in their dispatch planning. Hence, the problem was not wind power or even the cold front: it was failure to use the available information.
Fortunately, things are much better today. There’s an excellent article on Power-Gen Worldwide about the Texas electric grid’s control center two years later. Here’s an excerpt about how they deal with wind variability today:
The wind resource is more manageable now that ERCOT has wind resource forecasting software at its disposal. [...]
ERCOT has begun using forecasting tools from AWS Truewind to help it manage wind energy resources. In the coming days ERCOT will begin using a ramping tool, from the same vendor, to improve its forecasting of wind resource ramping events. Just a week before our visit, the AWS Truewind software–operating in a test mode–predicted a 2,000 MW drop in wind resource followed 15 minutes later by a 2,000MW recovery. The predicted ramp event matched the actual event almost perfectly.
Joel Mickey told me that ERCOT is happy to dispatch as much wind energy as is available.
Thanks to Micheal Giberson over at Knowledge Problem for bringing this article to my attention.