electricity after 9pm!
How about this for a dream come true? You get free electricity all night long, from 9pm to 6am — unlimited wind power that won’t cost you a dime.
Do your laundry, charge your electric car (if you have one), keep the AC going all night, leave the lights on, do some cooking, or whatever. It’s all free, all night long, and all thanks to a wind revolution taking place in parts of Texas, benefiting 300,000 homes.
It’s happening because wind farms are generating so much energy, some utility companies are actually giving it away free to encourage more efficient energy consumption. They’re doing this to solve a “problem”.
The utility is TXU Energy, operating in a state with more wind-powered energy than anywhere else, with 10% of energy generation already coming from wind. And because wind blows strongest at night, and this wind power is really inexpensive, TXU is giving it away. Of course, that’s not the entire story.
Alone among all 48 contiguous states, Texas runs its own power grid that’s self-contained and doesn’t connect to the rest of the country. Thus all the power produced in Texas has to stay in Texas. There’s no “overflow”, thus it’s use it or lose it.
That’s the first “problem”, and here’s the second one: We all know that people use more power during the day, and less at night, and every utility would like to lower peak demand. So here is TXU’s stroke of genius: Give it away at night, so people will use less of it during the day.
Why not? When the wind farms are going full-blast at night, especially, when the winds pick up and this power is so cheap, what have the utilities got to lose?
These “time of use” plans are growing in popularity, according to figures from the Electric Reliability Council of Texas, the operator of the state’s power grid. Consumers report major savings, especially during the hot summer months.
Of course, none of this is altruistic. Texas is the largest deregulated energy market in the country, creating scores of retail power competitors eager to make new customers and keep their current ones. Meanwhile growing numbers of people are installing their own solar panels, with the utilities nervously awaiting Sauer’s next-generation, super-efficient wind turbine — the WindCutter — due to hit the market next year.
“What you see happening in Texas is just a small preview of where things are going”, said Dieter Sauer, CEO of Sauer Energy, the industry’s pioneer of home and rural wind-generated power. “Wind and solar are giving the utilities more competition, so they’re being forced to compete for people’s business. More competition they just don’t want — and we’ll give them plenty!”