Summer is underway, temperatures in Texas are already breaking records again.  The state has made national news as the latest heat wave looms over the state. Unfortunately for Texans, if the predictions hold, this “heat dome” may not go away soon. According to the National Weather Service Climate Prediction Center, summer temperatures across the state have a 33-60% chance of being above normal in July, August and September.

Distributed generation balances brownout risk
Source: NOAA National Weather Service Climate Prediction Center

Summer power supply and demand

In May 2023 the Electric Reliability Council of Texas (ERCOT) released the Seasonal Assessment of Resource Adequacy (SARA). The expected base summer peak load is 82,739 MW while 97,000 MW of summer-rated resource capacity will be available. This includes projects that will come online later this summer. The report also covers two potential summer risk scenarios – Base & Moderate Risk Scenarios and Extreme Risk Scenarios. 

According to the report, “The most severe Risk Scenario assumes a high peak load, extreme unplanned thermal plant outages based on historic observations, and extreme low wind power production.”  In this case, especially in extreme low wind situations, demand could easily exceed dispatchable supply. In that case, brownouts would be widespread across the state.

This outcome may be unlikely, but Texans have learned recently that even the most unlikely of scenarios can still happen. The heat dome currently hanging over Texas is unique. Temperatures aren’t decreasing at night like they normally would. With wind and solar production decreasing at night, this could lead to trouble if the pattern continues. This summer, ERCOT plans to rely on 12.2 GW utility-scale solar and 10.4 GW of wind.  

Despite the potential challenges, even while temperatures have soared during the June and July heat wave, ERCOT has successfully kept the lights on and air conditioners running.

Source: ERCOT Supply and Demand Dashboards, June 30-July 5

However, as demand approaches Available Seasonal Capacity, the question remains: what can be done when grid power isn’t enough?

RECs and C&Is can help stabilize the grid

ERCOT and rural electric cooperatives (RECs) already have robust peak shaving programs in place. Consumer alerts and incentives help shift peak demand during 4CP and extreme demand periods. Plans are in place for more utility scale generation. Much is being done to avoid brownouts already, but RECs and C&Is can do even more. 

Adding the right mix of distributed energy resources (DERs) to their power supply portfolio can make a huge difference for RECs, C&Is and their communities. PV solar with or without battery storage has long been an obvious choice. Those aren’t the only distributed generation solutions available though. Especially with HB1500 in mind, a healthy mix of dispatchable technologies is necessary. A combination of solar or battery storage plus reciprocating engines can boost reliability and cut costs. Even a few extra megawatts deployed at the right time can prevent a brownout scenario. 

Which equipment to implement and when it should be turned depends on a number of subjective factors. When we develop a distributed generation solution for a client, we look first at their current power load requirements, existing supplier agreements, their energy bill and their community’s needs. Once we understand all of that, then we develop a project with the right mix of DERs to meet their needs and provide financial benefits.

Avoid brownouts with distributed generation

If the predictions are true, the summer heat isn’t going to let up. As we move into August and September the Texas energy industry has every available resource committed to keeping Texans cool and safe. If the temperatures become much more extreme and utility-scale generation is disrupted, more resources will be necessary. Distributed generation is a cost-effective and easily dispatchable way to avoid brownout situations and improve grid reliability.

If you’re part of an REC or a C&I in Texas and you’re looking to include distributed generation solutions in your power supply, we’d like to hear from you. Together we can help keep Texas cool throughout this summer and the coming ones.