Luminant-Sponsored Robocats Bring Home the Gold

Invaluable lessons in teamwork and the sciences

Robocats - August 2016 - 1The Woodrow Wilson High School robotics team, the Robocats, recently battled their way to the top during the inaugural UIL Robotics State Championship. With help from a $1,000 Luminant sponsorship donation, the Dallas ISD team won first place and took home a gold medal for their best-in-class robot performance.

The competition, titled Stronghold, challenged participants to form alliances and build robots capable of breaching their opponents’ fortifications, weakening their tower with boulders and scaling the opposing tower. In addition to the Robocats, the winning alliance included the Clear Creek ISD Robonauts, the Greenville ISD Robowranglers and the Harlandale ISD Rhumbots.

“The teamwork, expertise and engineering knowledge demonstrated by the Robocats and their alliance teams was awe-inspiring,” said Tony Rylander, Luminant principal engineer and Robocats mentor. “Countless hours go into designing and constructing these robots. We had an incredible journey and I’m thrilled to see the Robocats accomplish their first championship win.”

Robocats team members, ranging from freshman to seniors, learn critical Science Technology Engineering and Mathematics (STEM) skills, including electrical, mechanical and programming concepts. This fall, the team will gear back up to compete in the Boosting Engineering, Science and Technology (BEST) Regional Robotics Championship.

Learn more about the Robocats’ journey throughout the years.

Robocats - August 2016 - 2

POV: Power Breakfast

Power Breakfast for August 15, 2016

Fifth Japanese nuclear reactor to resume operation; ERCOT's record week

POV: Power Breakfast

A nearly daily update of energy-related news:

  • In Japan, the Shikoku Electric Power Company announced that it is planning to restart unit 3 of its Ikata nuclear power plant. This marks the fifth Japanese reactor to resume operation and it will follow the new safety standards implemented following the Fukushima accident in 2011.
  • Throughout the week of August 8, ERCOT reached record levels of all-time peak systemwide demand a total of six times. The current all-time peak record is 71,197 MW set on Thursday, August 11 between 4-5 p.m. While much of Texas saw temperatures in the three digits last week, this week’s forecast should be milder with less power consumption expected; ERCOT expects sufficient generation available.

As Peak Demand Keeps Rising in ERCOT, Records Fall

Powering Texas through the hot summer season

Lamar Power Plant, Luminant’s Combined-Cycle Natural Gas Plant

Lamar Power Plant, Luminant’s Combined-Cycle Natural Gas Plant

With the August heat above 100 degrees and covering much of Texas this week, the Electric Reliability Council of Texas set another record for peak power demand on Thursday between 4-5 p.m. of 71,197 megawatts. The previous record of 71,043 megawatts had just been set one hour earlier (between 3-4 p.m.). The new peaks set on Thursday blew past 71,000 megawatts for the first time and beyond the records set on Wednesday and Monday of this week.

To give you an idea of how much generation that is, one megawatt can power 200 homes in periods of high demand.

On these hot days when demand is at its highest, where does all that power come from?

ERCOT manages the flow of electric power to 24 million Texas customers, representing 90 percent of the state’s electric load. Luminant is the largest power generator in ERCOT.

The ERCOT grid relies on a diverse mix of energy sources that when all pulling together provide the power for this growing state. Here’s a breakout from ERCOT of which energy sources provided the power when Texans needed it most when Monday’s record was set:

  • 57% natural gas (includes combined cycle as well as traditional steam and combustion turbines)
  • 27% coal
  • 8% wind
  • 7% nuclear
  • 1% other (hydro, renewables, diesel)
    Note: Percentages are rounded
Forney Power Plant – Luminant’s Combined-Cycle Natural Gas Plant

Forney Power Plant – Luminant’s Combined-Cycle Natural Gas Plant

These numbers also underscore the importance of dependable power generation from natural gas, coal and nuclear energy.

Over the record peak hour on Monday, Luminant’s coal and gas plants and Comanche Peak Nuclear Power Plant helped supply nearly 15,000 megawatts to the grid.

“We strive for operational excellence, and on days like we’ve had this week, we’re reminded why it’s so important to work as a team to maintain safe and reliable operations,” said Steve Horn, Luminant chief fossil officer. “Our employees deserve immense credit for safely working in these extreme temperatures to help their fellow Texans stay safe and cool.”

With more hot days ahead, Luminant’s people, plants and mines are doing their part for safely powering Texas.

POV: Power Breakfast

Power Breakfast for August 11, 2016

ERCOT breaks this week's peak demand record; Australia rejects Chinese bids to operate electricity assets

POV: Power Breakfast

A nearly daily update of energy-related news:

  • On Wednesday, August 10, ERCOT set a new systemwide demand record of 70,572 MW, surpassing the previous peak demand record set on Monday, August 8 of this week. ERCOT officials continue to monitor the market to ensure that there is sufficient generation available to meet the needs of Texans during the hot summer months.
  • The Australian government has rejected bids from the Chinese government-owned State Grid and Hong Kong’s Cheung Kong Infrastructure to operate Ausgrid, the Australian company that owns most of the electricity distribution assets in Sydney and surrounding areas. Officials are citing national security concerns as the root of this decision. Bidders have until next Thursday to propose their final argument before a final ruling is made.

This One Tip Really Will Cut Your Electricity Bill

Save money this summer with a smart thermostat

ThermostatOf all the money-saving electricity conservation tips and tricks, there’s one that truly moves the needle – and, of course, it’s the one many people avoid: managing your thermostat.

Whether you’re a homeowner or a business operator, allowing your air conditioner to run while homes and businesses are empty is usually 100 percent waste. So why do people do it? Two time-worn reasons stand out.

The first is that people prefer to set it and forget it. That would be fine if outside temperatures stayed constant, but that’s not the case. Think of it this way: On a 70-degree day, walking outside doesn’t cause much of a sweat. When it’s 85, you might sweat a bit. At 100+, you’re sweating buckets before the door is locked behind you.

Your air conditioner faces the same impact. It doesn’t work much when outdoor temps are 70, but it’s in overdrive at 100. Adjusting the thermostat setting based on outdoor temperatures is a sure way to reduce your air conditioner’s runtime, and that helps lower the bill.

The other reason people don’t manage their thermostats is because they don’t want to arrive to an uncomfortable environment at home or work. That’s reasonable and easily avoided.

thermostat programmingThe best of today’s smart thermostats are easy to adjust from the device on the wall, an Internet-connected computer or a mobile app. Some, like the TXU iThermostatTM, even self-adjust as you and your mobile devices move closer to or further away from your home. In fact, smart thermostats offer a bit of set-it-and-forget-it functionality because set-up functions are needed only once or twice a year.

While the Farmer’s Almanac says the dog days of summer are coming to a close, we know hot Texas temperatures will be with us through as late as the end of September. Now is the perfect time to take control by investing in a smart thermostat.

POV: Power Breakfast

Power Breakfast for August 10, 2016

Expanded Panama Canal gives the natural gas industry a direct route to Asia; China's bid on an Australian electricity lease under review

POV: Power Breakfast

A nearly daily update of energy-related news:

  • With the Panama Canal’s expanded locks opening earlier this summer, the natural gas industry now has a more direct route to the Asian market. There are now more than 170 reservations for transits across the canal; the DOE expects that there could be as many as 550 tankers crossing the canal by as early as 2021. The canal was retrofitted with a third set of locks and deeper navigation channels allowing for an increased capacity to travel through the canal.
  • Australia is threatening to veto the Chinese government-owned State Grid from bidding on a 99 year lease to operate Ausgrid, an Australian company which owns most of the electricity distribution assets in Sydney. Additionally, Hong Kong’s Cheung Kong Infrastructure is also under review by Australia’s foreign investment laws. This comes after allegations have been made that Chinese intelligence services have conducted “brazen” espionage in Australia according to the Australian Financial Review.
POV: Power Breakfast

Power Breakfast for August 9, 2016

ERCOT sets new peak demand record; EIA reports net summer natural gas withdrawal

POV: Power Breakfast

A nearly daily update of energy-related news:

  • ERCOT set a new systemwide record for peak demand at 70,169 MW on Monday, August 8. The previous record was set on August 10, 2015 and was a peak demand total of 69,877 MW. With triple digit temperatures expected to continue for the remainder of the week, ERCOT forecasts peak demand at or above 70,000 MW throughout the week.
  • For the first time in a decade, the U.S. had a net summer withdrawal of natural gas. The EIA’s weekly gas storage report shows that the working gas in storage was 3,288 Bcf as of July 29, 2016, a net decline of 6 Bcf from the previous week. Natural gas inventories stand at 3.3 trillion cubic feet, 16 percent higher than the recent five-year average.

Luminant Provides a Real-World Learning Experience

STEM lessons for Texas teachers

Workshop participants learned about soil texture and collected soil samples for field testing while touring Three Oaks Mine’s reclamation areas.

Workshop participants learned about soil texture and collected soil samples for field testing while touring Three Oaks Mine’s reclamation areas.

Furthering their knowledge of environmental stewardship and energy production, nearly 20 elementary and secondary teachers attended a Texas Mining and Reclamation Association (TMRA) workshop at Luminant’s Sandow Power Plant and Three Oaks Mine. Through the workshop’s interactive sessions, our state’s educators were able to connect the link between natural resources, their role in energy production and the importance of environmental stewardship – all valuable lessons they’ll take back to their classrooms this fall.

Standing in the pit at Three Oaks Mine, attendees learned about lignite formation and various geologic processes.

Standing in the pit at Three Oaks Mine, attendees learned about lignite formation and various geologic processes.

“Luminant has a longstanding history of supporting educational outreach efforts and our employees who helped lead multiple workshop seminars are true subject matter experts,” said Robert Gentry, Luminant Academy curriculum manager. “With the potential to reach more than 2,000 students, opportunities like these help equip teachers with the knowledge, tools and resources they need to effectively communicate energy-related topics in their classrooms.”

During the week-long workshop, participants attended multiple field and classroom seminars highlighting various environmental science topics and received a first-hand look at mined land reclamation.

Luminant has set the standard in mined land reclamation for more than 40 years, restoring nearly 80,000 acres and planting more than 38 million trees that will benefit Texas’ landscapes and wildlife for generations to come.

The teachers also stood inside of a dragline bucket at Three Oaks Mine.

The teachers also stood inside of a dragline bucket at Three Oaks Mine.

TMRA teacher workshops offer Texas teachers science-based information to help better educate their students about the availability, importance, development and use of our natural resources. During one-week sessions, teachers tour mining facilities, visit reclamation areas and participate in hands-on labs with the objective of returning to the classroom and providing their students with real-world, problem-solving activities – such as designing a surface mine, restoring land or developing water resources. Learn more about TMRA teacher workshops here.