Wind power: keeping the lights on

It’s a new day, and Texas wind power is helping to keep folks warm during the cold snap, Franz Matzner of NRDC stresses his support for the PTC, and China makes a big push for wind power.

It’s been one cold week, and grid operators have struggled to keep the juice flowing for consumers from New England all the way to the Lone Star State. In Texas, wind power helped keep the lights on when some traditional power plants unexpectedly shut down during peak load times:

  • Electric demand reached 57,277 megawatts in the hour ended at 8 a.m. CST (1400 GMT) on Tuesday, slightly above the 57,265 MW record set in February 2011 during a prolonged cold spell, according to the website for the Electric Reliability Council of Texas (ERCOT), the state's primary grid.”
  • "Sufficient generation and higher wind output from West Texas wind farms boosted the state's electric supply Tuesday compared to Monday when the grid operator declared an emergency as power plants shut unexpectedly, reducing supply.”
  • “ERCOT was able to avert rolling outages Monday by importing power and implementing demand response programs to curb rising demand. The grid operator ended its call for power conservation Tuesday.”

Franz A. Matzner is associate director of government affairs for the Natural Resources Defense Council. In his blog post at The Hill, he highlights the importance of extending the PTC (and other renewable tax incentives) now, for the sake of our planet.

  • “No one in their right mind would stop administering an effective medicine to a sick child just because research was proceeding on a different cure. Yet, that’s essentially what Congress did when it let the nation’s suite of clean, renewable energy and energy efficiency tax incentives expire before leaving town for the holidays.”
  • “Some might argue that these tax provisions have expired before and then been retroactively renewed while the clean energy sector continued to expand — so no harm, no foul.  The facts, however, belie this sanguine perspective.”
  • “In short, Congress should immediately reinstate clean energy tax incentives while it continues to work on other, more far-reaching tax reform solutions. Doing so will keep our clean energy economy and its thousands of jobs healthy while producing millions in consumer savings and crucial reductions in the pollution poisoning our planet.”

Finally, the BBC reports that China has launched a massive initiative to more than double its current fleet of wind turbines in the coming years, but not without challenges:

  • “From a current installed capacity of 75 gigawatts (GW), the aim is to achieve a staggering 200GW by 2020. By contrast, the European Union countries together have just over 90GW of installed wind capacity.”
  • The windiest regions, such as Xinjiang, tend to be extremely distant from the biggest cities where the electricity is most needed. And the construction of wind farms has often outstripped the building of the connections needed to link the turbines to the grid.
  • “‘[L]ast year wind surpassed nuclear to become number three after coal and hydro, and it's got a lot more potential.’ The sheer scale of the wind market is encouraging mass production which has lowered prices and fostered innovation.”



Eileen O’Grady, “Cold pushes Texas power use to winter record.” Reuters. 7 January 2014.

Franz A. Matzner, “Tax breaks for alternative energy brighten the future.” The Hill. 6 January 2014.

David Shukman, “China on world's 'biggest push' for wind power.” BBC News. 7 January 2014.


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