Solar Excellent Resource for Meeting High Demand for Energy
You’ve probably heard how solar and wind are intermittent energy sources that aren’t always available, but that’s not the whole story, or necessarily the most important part.
When an energy source is available is a critical piece of the puzzle. We don’t need nearly as much electricity in the middle of the night as we do at 5 pm on a week day when people get home from work and turn down their air conditioning and start cooking dinner, watching TV and doing laundry – often all at the same time.
And now the Electric Reliability Council of Texas (ERCOT) – the entity responsible for keeping the lights on in most of Texas – is officially recognizing that solar energy is available right when we need it the most – on sunny afternoons – and that wind resources are able to contribute far more than was once believed to meeting our energy needs at those times as well.
ERCOT has no special love for renewable energy – protecting public health and the environment isn’t a factor in its decisions – but it has studied the issue and decided to give solar and wind generators the credit they actually deserve. Solar facilities up to 200 MW (that’s like a gas plant) will be given a 100% capacity value, although larger solar facilities will have a somewhat lower rating. Coastal wind will have a 32.9% capacity value. Coastal wind blows more during the day than West Texas wind, which blows mostly at night, but even non-coastal wind will now get a 14.2% capacity value. Capacity value corresponds to how likely it is for an energy source to be available during peak energy demand – typically a hot, summer afternoon.
Wind has become a real contributor to the Texas energy portfolio and we can look for solar to make an even larger contribution in the years to come. This policy change at ERCOT will help us move in that direction.