Slate dissects the strange circumstances that led the price of electricity in Texas to briefly dip not just to zero, but into negative territory, reaching at one point negative $8.52 per megawatt hour. Why? A combination of being an "electricity island" with only weak ties to the surrounding state's grids; strong wind in a state that's sprouted thousands of windmills; and infrastructure design that means the only real buyer for most electricity producers' output is ERCOT, the Electric Reliability Council of Texas. (One of the comments attached to the story notes that Texas is not completely isolated from the national grid, but it's still markedly isolated.) A slice: Demand fell—at 4 a.m., the amount of electricity needed in the state was about 45 percent lower than the evening peak. The wind was blowing consistently—much later in the day Texas would establish a new instantaneous wind generation record. At 3 a.m., wind was supplying about 30 percent of the state’s electricity, as this daily wind integration report shows. And because the state is an electricity island, all the power produced by the state’s wind farms could only be sold to ERCOT, not grids elsewhere in the country.
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