Wind Was There: Texas Windpower Delivered During ERCOT’s Winter Weather Event

Wind turbines are designed to operate over a wide range of temperatures. When faced with extreme winter weather, wind turbines that are optimized for operations in hot climates, such as Texas, can experience outages, just like other forms electric power generation. 

Like every other generation resource during the February 2021 extreme winter weather event (a 1-in-100-year event), the wind power industry experienced outages. As the event is reviewed and policies are considered, it is crucial to understand how the wind fleet performed – and what was expected of it – by examining the ERCOT data during the 120-hour event.

Since winter wind output is generally lower than other seasons, ERCOT expects an average peak capacity of 6,142 MW of output from the 25,000 MW wind fleet out of total projected resources from all generation of 82,513 MW (November 2020, ERCOT Seasonal Assessment of Resource Adequacy, SARA). 

Under ERCOT’s extreme-low wind output scenario, 1,700 MW of wind is expected. During the 2021 extreme winter weather event (2/14-2/19), the Texas wind fleet, with 16,000 MW offline, performed as follows:

  • Slightly Underperformed versus ERCOT winter forecast – wind averaged 4,500 MW (73% of the ERCOT SARA winter forecast of 6,142 MW); 
  • Outperformed ERCOT’s extreme low-wind output (1,700 MW) scenario 90% of the event; and 
  • Outperformed the ERCOT short-term/day-of wind forecast 118% of the time. 

The Texas wind power industry and its equipment providers are studying the 2021 weather event and are exploring a range of options to better prepare the Texas wind fleet for extreme weather without degrading performance the remaining 98.7% of the year.

“If you’re pointing to a few thousand megawatts of wind being short [during the extreme weather event] and ignoring the fact that tens of thousands of thermals are short — I don’t see how you can paint that kind of picture.” 

Josh Rhodes, PhD, University of Texas research associate at the Energy Institute/Founder, IdeaSmiths, LLC.