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Windpower's Warning

ERCOT’s February emergency suggests storage capacity is needed to support renewables.

Fortnightly Magazine - May 2008

savings may go a long way toward offsetting the high installed cost of battery-storage technology in the upcoming ERCOT nodal market. And if the economics of the ERCOT market can make sense for battery-storage manufacturers, the technology might get a needed technological boost toward improvements and scaled production economies, leading to applications in other less constrained markets.

West Texas is simply a precursor to what will happen in other wind-development regions if the current rate of wind-capacity growth continues. In the absence of energy storage, markets will continue to struggle to integrate significant new levels of wind generation.

History is rife with examples of nature proving more unpredictable than mankind can imagine or prepare for. Without a method for reducing the volatility of wind output, the windpower industry sooner or later will be faced with an event that will become what Feb. 26, 2008 was not—the defining moment that could stop the industry dead in its tracks. Just one such event could lead to wind moratoriums, investigations, and possibly a shift in public and political will that may take years to reverse. And that would be a shame, given the significant promise windpower holds for contributing to a safer, cleaner future.