Normally, I am reluctant to simply reproduce a press release, but I figured you might be interested in this one.
From the Nuclear Energy Institute:
As Texas copes with rolling electricity blackouts and its coldest temperatures in decades, you should be aware that the state’s four nuclear power plants – which have a combined electric generating capacity of 4,800 megawatts – are operating at 100 percent capacity. See the power reactor status report on the U.S. Nuclear Regulatory Commission website: http://www.nrc.gov/reading-rm/doc-collections/event-status/reactor-status/ps.html#r2.
Since mid-January, the nation’s 104 operating nuclear power plants have achieved an average daily capacity factor of more than 90 percent, with a one-day average high of 94.5 percent on Jan. 28, according to electricity production data reported by energy companies to the Nuclear Energy Institute and drawn from reactor operations status reports compiled by the NRC. Capacity factor is a measure of power plant efficiency, measuring the amount of electricity the plant generates compared to the amount it could have produced at continuous full power operation during the same period.
During that same period of mid-January through Feb. 2, the four reactors at the STP power station near Houston and the Comanche Peak power station near Dallas operated at an average capacity of 100 percent. The two nuclear power stations provide 10.5 percent of the state’s electricity and had an average capacity factor of 95.9 percent from 2007-2009, the last years for which full figures are available.
In 2010, the 104 nuclear power plants operating in 31 states had a combined generation more than 800 billion kilowatt-hours of electricity and an average capacity factor of 91 percent. Nuclear power plants account for about 10 percent of America’s installed electric generation capacity but, due to their efficiency and reliability, produce 20 percent of the country’s total electricity supply.
This is why they are widely recognized as a backbone of the nation’s electricity infrastructure and grid stability.
For more information on nuclear energy in Texas see: http://www.nei.org/resourcesandstats/documentlibrary/reliableandaffordableenergy/factsheet/statefactstexas/.
Update: Does anyone know of a web site for Texas’s ERCOT that is analogous to the informative BPA Balancing Authority Load and Total Wind, Hydro, and Thermal Generation, Near-Real-Time?
Update: (February 6, 2011 at 0230) A commenter (thanks Bill) provided a link to a web site that has a screen shot of a data display created from information that ERCOT used to provide. It includes data at 1 minute intervals showing total generation, wind generation, and spinning reserves. The last day that data stream was available was December 2, 2010. The final stretch of data before the service went dark shows total wind generation dropping from about 20% to 0.8% during a period that looks to be about 6 hours long. I wonder if there is any possibility that there was pressure from wind supporters to stop providing the performance data to the public that is paying a major portion of the cost of those turbines?
9NEWS.com Denver CO (February 4, 2011) Tens of thousands left without natural gas service in NM
Star Telegram (February 3, 2011) Cold exposes jumble of flaws in Texas electric policies Here is an important quote from the article:
Fraser said that when several coal-fired electricity plants failed, providers turned to natural-gas-fired plants to fill the gap.
Except that didn’t work because Atmos had curtailed its supply of natural gas to industrial customers, including natural-gas-fired power plants, he said. Atmos did exactly as its protocol called for, he said, to make sure that residential and commercial users had enough gas pressure.
“We didn’t have enough gas pressure available to bring up the power plants,” Fraser said. “In a high-volume usage, the first ones they cut off are the power plants.”
This quirk in the system was unknown to Fraser and perhaps others in state government, probably because no winter storm had so taxed both the electricity grid and the natural gas supply.
“We had never come close to an event like this in the winter,” he said. “Normally, the peaks that tax the system are in the summer” when natural gas usage is not very high.
There is a reason why utility company planners often talk about the need for supply diversity.
Charles Barton tells a story about the effects and potential causes of the rolling blackouts. Texas Power Blackouts and Green Energy