TAYLOR, Texas (KXAN) — ERCOT, Electric Reliability Council of Texas, Inc., held its annual Media Day on Wednesday to present its “State of the Grid” as well as its future projections, including a summer forecast for energy consumption. Summer for ERCOT is June 1 to September 30.
Warren Lasher, Director of System Planning, highlights the growing interest in non-coal and non-gas energy resources. According to Lasher, wind energy is a strong focus in the future for resource developers. Texas has the number one wind energy capacity in the county: it has more than double the capacity of the nation’s second spot, California. In fact, if Texas were its own country, it’d rank number six in the world in the scope of its wind energy. It’s also cost-efficient, which is one of the two major factors ERCOT researches with new types of energy. The other is if the energy source can provide reliable power to serve its customers’ needs. Lasher says, “Once you build a wind turbine, its effectively free power.” He anticipates a 26 percent increase in wind energy installations in Texas by the end of this year.
Chris Coleman, Senior Meteorologist for ERCOT, also gave his predictions on the upcoming summer. Energy consumption increases drastically on hot days as people try to cool down their homes, so temperature and precipitation predictions are an important part of ERCOT’s day-to-day operations. Even though there’s an El Niño in place, Texas usually doesn’t see significantly different temperatures or precipitation during the summer months, because traditional summer patterns override El Niño’s cooler, wetter tendencies. Coleman says, however, “We’ve seen some strong warming along the equator,” and trends indicate the El Niño will strengthen throughout the summer, keeping Texas’ temperatures at or below average, and rain chances higher.
The “on-peak” time of day for energy use according to ERCOT is 5 p.m. At this time, people are starting to arrive home from work, and are turning lights and appliances on inside their homes, as well as turning the air conditioning cooler. At the same time, an overlap is occurring with people who are still at work, and are using power in their businesses. In the middle of a hot summer, this is when the most stress appears on the power grid. With a cooler, wetter summer predicted, Coleman says that there will be less stress on the power grid at this peak time. There will likely be more usage during the “off-peak” time of day, which occurs overnight, as warm, muggy conditions from wet soil force people to keep fans and air conditioning running, even as they turns their lights out and appliances off. Coleman notes the predicted set-up this summer will still keep overall energy usage lower than a hot summer, like in 2011.
ERCOT administers electric power solely within the state of Texas to 24 million customers, which is 90 percent of the state. It is unique in its one-state focus: the other interconnections that govern the rest of the U.S. and most of Canada are split into only two divisions: west and east. ERCOT oversees grids that span more than 43,000 miles of transmission lines and more than 500 generation units.