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Sorting Out What Happened in Texas

Following energy has given me a lot of anxiety over the stability of the grid, especially in winter. I’ve had my phones beep out warnings to turn the heat down during polar vortexes. But when I heard Texas might be vulnerable to an upcoming cold spell I was a scoffer. I was even overly flippant about this serious situation. Then I started to run across all these pictures of iced over wind turbines and power lines. I always figured it was inevitable that some state, region or country was going to be hit hard by some winter storm and have a grid failure because of wind and solar. I just couldn’t imagine it would be Texas. Texas does have the most wind turbines of any state. It gets around 20% or so of its electricity from wind. A lot of sparsely populated states get a higher percentage, but Texas is surely the leader among populous states. They had a special buildout of their grid into rural areas where they could take advantage of wind. Being a southern state, they have a rather small percentage of solar.

I’ve been following what the renewable advocates have to say on blogs and Twitter and I’ve found a few surprises. I started hearing claims that the outages were not caused by wind but by coal, gas and even nuclear plants. I’m certainly not going to take this at face value, but I don’t want to completely dismiss it. A good example is someone who I really find obnoxious on climate, MSNBC’s Chris Hayes:

Investigating further I found that power plants are having trouble with stuff like instruments freezing up. Gas used for heating lowers the pressure in gas lines and leaves less for generating electricity. Now gas in a pipeline obviously doesn’t freeze up, but gas plants do have things like water pipes and gages that can. Rod Adams chronicles how one of the reactors in Texas tripped off:

There was some blaming of deregulation and Texas not being integrated with the rest of the grid and there does appear to be a case to be made. I’m seeing huge amounts of thermal generation on the order of 30 gigawatts being offline. So is all this wind just humming along and saving the day or at least keeping things from being much worse? Well Alex Epstein has been tweeting a graph that’s devastating to their case:

Looking at that bottom graph, the green wind band does not hold up all that well. Of course gas and coal have taken hits and there’s a rectangular hole for the tripped reactor. The actual contributions from wind and solar look relatively tiny for the last few days. The wind band looks rather narrow compared to a few days back. I don’t know if it’s due to less wind, too much wind for the turbines, frozen turbines or downed lines. We’ll see how it all sorts out.

23 thoughts on “Sorting Out What Happened in Texas

  1. thanks for the update on Texas Mike – seems Chris Hayes knows his stuff & others are exTrump morons!!!

    but it does seem more complicated than it first seems!!!

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  2. Here’s a longer version of Hayes that has a lot more ridiculousness. I used the shorter one because I wanted his face to show up on the YouTube cover image.

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  3. I am here in Houston, TX. It is wind, no matter how much the motivated liar climate kooks claim otherwise. We have power and internet connections for the first time since Monday night. Most of my city is dark.
    Our energy management bureaucracy, ERCOT, gave favorable treatment to unreliable “renewables” at the expense of despatchable dependable power. ERCOT was too busy enabling climate kooks to make windmills profitable, and not paying attention to weather hardening power suppliers and believing the bullshit that wind somehow works without…wind. And sola…without sun.
    Wind’s failure is a feature, not a flaw.
    The failure of gas is a correctible flaw, not a feature.
    And clearly, if we get >30 year multi-day cold snaps we are not seeing the end of winter.
    No more nice guy, no more “tolerance’ for “alternatives”.
    Greens and climate kooks kill.
    The fire emergency calls in the Houston area have exploded. Most of Houston is still in the dark.
    Water has to be boiled before drinking.
    Thanks to ATTP and the other climate kooks who have corrupted science, engineering, history and reality.,
    Emotional rant over, back to prepping for the next outage.
    Catch y’all soon.
    Cheers,

    Liked by 1 person

  4. Hmmm…
    As one of the only Texans posting here, I hope that my pending post can come out of the holding pen sooner than later…..

    Liked by 1 person

  5. Pathetic hype,.. how does this compute with global WARMING?
    Didn’t David Viner tell us snow falls are just a thing of the past?
    Silly hippies.

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  6. Beth. I don’t believe Guru Viner ever ranged as far as the Lone ⭐️ State so could hardly make informed opinions. Also his prediction about snow-deprived children is 21 years old, and he (and we) know so much more about “The Science” today. Goodness now we can attribute almost anything to global climate heating and calculate how much we must blame ourselves for it. Science is truly wonderful!

    Liked by 2 people

  7. I just posted this at Bishop Hill:

    “Texas weather: Are frozen wind turbines to blame for power cuts?
    By Reality Check team
    BBC News”

    https://www.bbc.co.uk/news/world-56085733

    I suspect that the BBC Reality Check Team have done a half-decent job in this article, and it’s probably fair to say that Texas’ recent power shortages aren’t entirely the fault of relying on “renewables”. However, two comments regarding the BBC’s approach to news:

    1. They certainly haven’t mentioned that reliance on “renewables” probably made the situation worse, which it probably did;

    2. Because the Texas situation (both extreme cold and lack of power) is seen as an attack on both the climate crisis narrative and net zero, they wheeled out the Reality Check team pdq. It’s not difficult to see which side the BBC is on, and the point is that they shouldn’t be on any side.

    Just as Mike seems to be open to persuasion on this subject, so am I. Rather than wondering whether “renewables” (aka unreliables) are to blame, or whether there’s a broader problem (which seems possible to me), almost the real story here is the speed with which the climate establishment has moved to “debunk” any claims that the cold undermines their climate hysteria, and any claims that “renewables” might be a problem.

    Liked by 3 people

  8. And I’ve just followed up that post at Bishop Hill with this:

    The Guardian is singing from the same hymn sheet as the BBC, to the extent that one might almost wonder if they co-ordinate their strategy. Surely not?

    “Why is Texas suffering power blackouts during the winter freeze?
    The oil- and gas-rich state is experiencing what officials call a ‘total failure’ of its electricity infrastructure”

    https://www.theguardian.com/us-news/2021/feb/18/why-is-texas-suffering-power-blackouts-during-the-winter-freeze

    I loved this particularly brazen paragraph, printed without any sort of backing links or other justification – simply stated as though it’s an incontrovertible fact:

    “With the climate crisis likely to trigger more freak weather events like the one Texas is suffering it is noteworthy that there are places that experience frigidly cold weather that rely heavily on wind turbines and manage to have electricity in the winter. In Iowa, a state which sees freezing temperatures more often than Texas, nearly 40% of electricity is generated by wind turbines.”

    The first part (“…the climate crisis [is] likely to trigger more freak weather events like the one Texas is suffering”) is highly questionable. Where is the BBC’s Reality Check team when you need them? The second part conveniently fails to ask whether that “nearly 40% of electricity” is maintained during bitterly cold winter weather.

    I also noticed this:

    “The state largely relies on natural gas for its power supply, though some comes from wind turbines and less from coal and nuclear sources.”

    Disingenuous, to say the least. The “…some comes from wind turbines…” claim (around 20%) seems like a calculated effort to play down the significance of wind turbines in Texas in order to play down their part in the recent power failure.

    Liked by 2 people

  9. Of course all systems are in danger in conditions like those in Texas. But the photo of a frozen valve or tap or whatever on a gas plant I saw was at ground level and looked like something you could fix with a bit of antifreeze, and then you’d have the plant operating again. Unfreezing a wind farm blade by blade is another matter.

    How the media spin this is going to have consequences right up to the Glasgow COP. I can’t see the Guardian continuing with “global heating.” So “global weirding” and “climate chaos” it is.

    Liked by 2 people

  10. If, as seems likely, one or more gas power stations went offline due to the severe cold weather, my question would be why did this lead to such widespread and massive power outages across the state? Were wind turbines generating at full capacity at the time? Was renewables penetration into the grid at the time the storm was raging large (near the theoretical 25% capacity) or small? Was the grid able to cope with the reduction in frequency caused by one or more gas stations going offline, or did more generators trip as a result – as happened with the London and South East blackout in Aug 2019?

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  11. I’m looking at Alex Epstein’s graph of power generation by ERCO in Texas up to the blackouts and I can see that wind generation peaked very high at the time and it looks like maybe the peak in wind energy slightly preceded the sharp decline in energy generation across the fossil fuel and renewables sectors which marked the beginning of the power outages.

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  12. Moderator, please let me know if my post is going to be posted.
    As a person living through this, and carefully watching the local events when power and internet cooperate, I believe I have some valid points.
    Thanks,

    Like

  13. In case you haven’t seen it, Paul Homewood is on the case:

    “Factchecking BBC’s Factcheck”

    https://notalotofpeopleknowthat.wordpress.com/2021/02/18/factchecking-bbcs-factcheck/

    And:

    “Midwest Have No Surplus Power For Texas”

    https://notalotofpeopleknowthat.wordpress.com/2021/02/18/midwest-have-no-surplus-power-for-texas/

    And:

    “Is Climate Change Making Texas Winters Colder?”

    https://notalotofpeopleknowthat.wordpress.com/2021/02/18/is-climate-change-making-texas-winters-colder/

    And:

    “Imagine Texas Without Fossil Fuels”

    https://notalotofpeopleknowthat.wordpress.com/2021/02/17/imagine-texas-without-fossil-fuels/

    Liked by 1 person

  14. Wind generation was running at a pathetic 2% of installed capacity at the time of the blackouts. The direct cause appears to be mismanagement. ERCOT failed to anticipate demand and failed to institute a series of managed rolling blackouts, as a result of which the grid became unstable and gas power stations tripped. It was not a lack of winterisation of power stations which was responsible, but mismanagement by ERCOT and ultimately, an over-reliance on wind generation at the cost of winding down traditional coal-fired power stations which, had they not been closed, would have been sufficient to meet the spike in demand.

    “Fossil Fuels Aren’t to Blame
    There are misleading reports asserting the blackouts were caused by large numbers of natural gas and coal plants failing or freezing. Here’s what really happened: the vast majority of our fossil fuel power plants continued running smoothly, just as they do in far colder climates across the world. Power plant infrastructure is designed for cold weather and rarely freezes, unlike wind turbines that must be specially outfitted to handle extreme cold.

    It appears that ERCOT, Texas’s grid operator, was caught off guard by how soon demand began to exceed supply. Failure to institute a managed rolling blackout before the grid frequency fell to dangerously low levels meant some plants had to shut off to protect their equipment. This is likely why so many power plants went offline, not because they had failed to maintain operations in the cold weather.

    Yet these operational errors overshadow the decades of policy blunders that made these blackouts inevitable. Thanks to market-distorting policies that favor and subsidize wind and solar energy, Texas has added more than 20,000 megawatts (MW) of those intermittent resources since 2015 while barely adding any natural gas and retiring significant coal generation.”

    https://thefederalist.com/2021/02/18/texass-blackouts-are-the-result-of-unreliable-green-energy/#.YC63M3lKi_Q.twitter

    Liked by 2 people

  15. Wind icing up is surely the proximate cause of the Texas mess. But there is a second underlying failure, inadequate natural gas reserve capacity. That is because the Texas energy peak is in summer for AC, when there is no additional natural gas demand for heating. And this inadequacy was foreseeable, because there were also ERCOT rolling blackouts Super Bowl week 2011. The difference then was less wind and more not yet retired coal baseload.

    Liked by 2 people

  16. So as the dust is settling and spinning by the climate kooks takes predictable self-righteous denials of accountability, it seems to those paying attention that:
    The wind power “economics” means that there are two standards power is held to.
    1) Gas, coal, nuclear and hydro: despatchability and grid dependability, with penalties and demands for performance.
    2) Wind, solar and unicorn farts, with no standards for despatchability, preferred sales prices and tax payer and rate payer subsidies no matter the lack of performance
    The irony was that remote controlled valves out in the gas fields were powered b, you guessed it, wind. So when the wind mills stopped spinning, a lot of gas went off line.
    The efforts to please the climate extremists left the grid manager, Errorcot, focused on pleasing climate demands, not building a resilientl and dependable grid.

    Like

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