Texas Clean Air Matters

How Electric Vehicles Are Strengthening the Texas Power Grid and Improving Air Quality

Source: SAE

Source: SAE

San Antonio’s Southwest Research Institute (SwRI) brings Texas the latest example of an intelligent, demand-side resource that can play an active role in the power grid and offset the use of fossil-fuel power plants. Late last month, SwRI announced that its innovative vehicle-to-grid system got the green light from the Electric Reliability Council of Texas (ERCOT), the grid operator, to participate in the state’s electricity market. This system is able to control the charging and discharging for a fleet of electric delivery trucks, meaning that when the supply of electricity struggles to meet demand, the intelligent vehicle charging system can simply stop charging (thus lowering demand). This technology will significantly increase grid reliability, thanks to its quick response time, and effectively deter the need for firing up another dirty power plant.

In order to avoid a blackout, the supply of electricity to the power grid must equal the electric demand from customers. Conventionally, this balance is maintained by power plants that remain on stand-by, ready to respond at a moment’s notice. Every hour of the day, ERCOT precisely controls these power plants to keep the grid balanced. In the process, a power plant has to rapidly increase or decrease its power output, which decreases its efficiency and increases its carbon and pollution footprint, much like an a car revving its engine. Read More »

Posted in Air Pollution, Demand Response, Electric Vehicles, ERCOT, Smart Grid / Tagged | Comments are closed

Freezing, Scorching, or Not, Texas Needs More Demand Response

MaritaHeadshotAs we thaw out this week from our most recent arctic blast, Texas’ inexperience with ice and snow has been met with Internet memes and jokes. But dealing with extreme temperatures causes serious strain on our current energy system and exacerbates our “energy crunch,” signifying that the available supply of electricity barely meets the demand for that power.

However, as is typical of Texas, last week our weather was quite pleasant – in the 70s – and strains on the system due to weather events weren’t too much of a concern. Yet the Electric Reliability Council of Texas (ERCOT), the state agency charged with managing the flow of electricity for most of Texas, alerted an emergency situation despite mild temperatures. To avert disaster, ERCOT initiated demand response, “ask[ing] customers to raise thermostat settings to 78 degrees, typically a summer response intended to reduce demand from air conditioners.” A single malfunctioning power plant caused the problem. ERCOT declined to identify the plant involved. Read More »

Posted in Demand Response, ERCOT, Extreme Weather, Smart Grid, Utilities / Tagged , , | Comments are closed

Google Partners with Nest in Race to be Your Smart Home Provider

Marita Mirzatuny

This post originally appeared on EDF’s Energy Exchange blog.  

On Monday, Google announced it is spending $3.2 billion to buy Nest Labs, the trailblazing company funded through its Google Ventures program and responsible for transforming “unloved” home products into beautiful, smart appliances. That’s a lot of money for a business with only two products: a thermostat and a smoke detector. Nest is not exactly reinventing the wheel, right? Well, actually they are.

Welcome to the Smart Home

Google’s move is a starting shot in the race to become the go-to smart home provider, putting in place stepping stones to realizing a future in which our homes will become one ecosystem – integrated and functioning as a whole. Customers are looking for smart appliances that can notify you when they are wasting energy or not performing properly. Plus, these innovative technologies provide customers with more opportunities to engage with and benefit from other cost- and energy-saving solutions, like demand response, rooftop solar power and electric vehicles. This puts customers in the driver seat, giving them insight and control over their daily lives in ways never before imagined (even if just to use automated, “set-it-and-forget-it” functionality). Read More »

Posted in Demand Response, Renewable Energy, Smart Grid, Texas Energy Crunch / Tagged , , | Read 1 Response

Demand Response Helps Texas Avoid Rolling Blackouts in the Face of Polar Vortex

MaritaHeadshotAs we begin a new year, the outlook for 2014 looks bright.  But as the Polar Vortex has descended upon the U.S. over the last few days, we have been reminded of the past, specifically the winter of 2011 when Texas’ electricity grid stuttered under the extreme cold.

Monday, as a record-breaking cold snap whisked over the U.S., the Electric Reliability Council of Texas (ERCOT), the state’s grid operator, warned of possible blackouts, just as they did in 2011.  We were lucky this time, but in February of 2011 we were not, and blackouts occurred throughout the state.

ERCOT’s warning meant that the grid’s power reserves “dropped below a comfortable threshold,” and the “system was just one step away from rolling blackouts” as the need for energy outpaced supply.  As these blackout threats loomed, two power plants succumbed to the cold and went down.  The loss in capacity amounted to about 3700 megawatts (MW), with 1800 MW lost due to the cold.  According to Dan Woodfin, ERCOT’s Director of System Operations, “if we had lost another unit it would have put us into an Energy Emergency Alert Three” – the stage that prompts rolling blackouts.  This is unnecessary and unacceptable. Read More »

Posted in Demand Response, ERCOT, Extreme Weather, Renewable Energy, Texas Energy Crunch, Wind / Tagged , , | Comments are closed

Renewable Energy to Thrive in 2014, Despite ALEC’s Aggressive Tactics

Marita Mirzatuny

This commentary originally appeared on EDF’s Energy Exchange blog

Now that 2013 is behind us, it’s important to reflect on the progress of renewable energy last year and identify obstacles that may arise in 2014.

Over the last year, we kept a close eye on multiple clean energy attacks around the country, specifically on the Renewable Portfolio Standards (RPS) in the various states.  As we have highlighted before, the “man behind the curtain” in these attacks is none other than the infamous American Legislative Exchange Council (ALEC), a front group and model bill factory for many corporate interests including oil, gas and coal.

The good news is that from Ohio to Kansas, EDF and other organizations have been successful in preventing ALEC’s aggressive tactics to hamper clean energy.  To date, ALEC has failed to repeal clean energy standards in any state, despite its “Electricity Freedom Act” propaganda and promise that 2013 would be “the most active year ever” for efforts to repeal renewable energy mandates.  Active?  Yes.  Effective?  No.   Read More »

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Google, Microsoft and BBVA Compass Commit to Texas Wind Because It Makes Good Business Sense

Source: Earth Techling

Source: Earth Techling

As we highlighted a few weeks back, Texas is on a new path to accelerating its clean, renewable energy economy.  The opening of the Competitive Renewable Energy Zones (CREZ) now enables more West and Panhandle wind turbines to fuel the state’s major metropolises, and the completion of the project couldn’t come soon enough.

A number of companies are looking to grow and invest in Texas, thanks to its plentiful, clean wind power.  Google, Microsoft and BBVA Compass are leading the charge and signing long-term agreements to purchase Texas wind energy.  These contracts lock in considerable revenue for the state and guarantee Texas’ ranking as the number one wind-producing state in the nation.  In fact, West Texas wind has outpaced the growth of coal, natural gas and all other fuel sources that supply the grid, according to a recent report by the U.S. Energy Information Administration.

In September, Google added to its growing stock of renewable energy by purchasing the entire output of a 240-megawatt wind farm (enough energy to power 84,000 homes) outside Amarillo to power its Oklahoma data center.  Late in November, Microsoft signed a 20-year contract to purchase all of the energy from a 110-megawatt wind farm outside Fort Worth to power its San Antonio data center.  And BBVA Compass recently signed a 10-year agreement with Choice! Energy Services, a Houston-based retail energy broker, to power its Texas branches exclusively with wind and solar energy. Read More »

Posted in Renewable Energy, San Antonio, Wind / Tagged , , , , , | Comments are closed