The default has a special meaning in electrical power systems. Describes any action that reduces the amount of electricity generated to maintain a balance between supply and demand – critical to avoiding blackouts.
Recently, downsizing has made news in countries like California And the Texas Which add a lot of wind and solar energy. On windy or sunny days, these sources may produce more electricity than the grid can consume. So network administrators reduce production to manage this oversupply.
This could be a missed opportunity. Electricity from solar and wind energy, as well as existing nuclear plants, is inexpensive and It emits less greenhouse gases than fossil fuelsTherefore, it may be in the community’s interest to continue operating these generators.
A special kind of surplus
Surpluses look different, like unsold books classified as remains Or Easter candy is 80% off at your local drugstore Monday morning.
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But electricity is not such a commodity. In the existing electrical network, both shortage and excess can lead to exactly the same thing – blackouts.
The North American grid transmits electricity as Alternating current That change direction back and forth, like the ebb and flow of water from an antique hand pump as the handle is pushed up and down. Modern power grids require precise levels of frequency – the movement of energy back and forth – to function properly.
The network is designed to operate at 60 Hz, which means that the flow of electric current switches back and forth 60 times per second. This is accomplished, in part, by ensuring that the amount of electricity produced at any time equals the amount of electricity used. If little electricity is produced, the frequency in the system goes down. If a lot of electricity is produced, the frequency increases.
Modern power stations are designed to operate within a relatively narrow range of about 60 Hz. If the actual frequency on the network is outside this range, the plant can detach itself from the system. If enough plants do that, it causes a blackout.
In some parts of the United States, mostly in the Southeast and West, the same companies generate and deliver electricity to customers. When utility area power plants generate more electricity than customers use, the company will simply produce less electricity from its most expensive power plant, or shut down completely.
But other countries have Restructuring their electricity markets Some companies produce energy and others deliver it to customers. In these competitive markets, downsizing raises complex issues. Power generators stay in business by generating and selling power, so when demand drops, grid operators need a system to ensure downsizing decisions are made fairly.
Often the first tool for choosing which plants to cut back is Prices paid by generators. When the supply grows or the demand decreases, the price of electricity falls. Some generators may decide that they are not willing to produce electricity at less than a certain price and drop if they reach that level.
If there is still excess capacity, the organization operating the network intervenes to shrink manually Generators. They can either do this through signals in the network data system Or by contacting generators directly Through phone calls. The power may be cut off for five minutes or five hours, depending on how quickly the system returns to normal.
In general, the United States needs more low-emissions electricity to help Reduce air pollution And the slow climate change. So downsizing is not a long-term strategy for managing energy surpluses. It is somewhat similar to the early days of the COVID-19 pandemic when supply chain disruptions forced producers to Getting rid of large amounts of food Even when groceries were struggling to fill their shelves.
One solution is expansion energy storage So that generators can supply excess power for a few hours instead of sending it directly to the grid. Another option is Build more transmissions To move the power to the areas you need. Both types of investments can reduce the need to cut back on generation and forgo the production of clean and affordable electricity.
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