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Why renewable energy was not to blame for the Texas blackouts

Posted on 8 March 2021 by greenman3610

This is a re-post from Yale Climate Connections

This month’s original “This is Not Cool” video aggregates segments of breaking news from a variety of Texas-based and national news outlets to provide a one-stop overview of the prolonged mid-February Texas power outage amidst freezing temperatures and heavy snow.

Experts commenting in the video agree that the outages, in the words of one of them, stemmed from thermal power plants, “a traditional power plant problem, not a clean energy problem.”

One important point emphasized by several of those experts is that severe Texas winter storms are likely to worsen in a warming world. Regardless of Texans’ personal views on the science of human-caused climate change, energy consultant Alisa Silvestein advises, those storms are “demonstrably getting worse.” She says Texas is “in the gun sights for a whole lot of extreme weather” and the state has to do more to winterize its diverse energy resources.

“We designed the entire grid for ‘Ozzie and Harriet,'” she says, referring to the American television sitcom that aired on ABC from October 1952 to April 1966. “We are already getting ‘Mad Max,'” she said, invoking a 1980 feature film in a near-future but dystopian Australia with life hard amid rampant deprivation, oppression, and/or terrorism.

Close observers of the Texas blackout, in particular those viewing it from afar via cable or network TV or radio, likely will recall having seen some of these same experts interviewed on the subject.  Many Texans, on the other hand, were on the midst of the blackouts, lacking power and access to expert analyses via conventional media. This video has the virtue of putting a wide cross-section of those experts in effect in one place, a six-minute film well suited for group presentations or classroom or distant learning.


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Comments 1 to 7:

  1. The video downplays the failure of wind.   Click on Wind Integration Report:  Table below has date, avg wind (weather), peak wind (weather), wind power at max load and max wind power on 4 days in Feb..

    15 18.4 30 5,350 5,461
    16 6.8 16 4,415 4,732
    17 9 15 3,556 3,882
    18 14.5 21 6,634 7,080

    The peak power numbers are all below the average (2019) Feb wind power of 9,000 MW.  The wind dropped, but the wind power produced dropped even more.  Peak wind production dropped too so storage would not help.  The bottom line is in the report: 30 GW of wind capacity and about 4GW of wind production when power was most needed.  The low production to capacity ratio shows wind cannot be relied upon.

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  2. Watch the video Eric and listen carefully.  

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  3. Eric,

    The amount of power from wind and solar is predicted 24 hours in advance.  The remainder of power is supposed to be produced by thermal sources (fossil fuel and nuclear).  Wind performed as expected.  Solar outproduced forecasts.  Thermal power collapsed.  You want to keep all your bets on thermal??  In the future there will be storage that provides energy on windless nights like happened in Texas.  Some proposed energy systems use electromethane as storage to power existng gas plants (Connelly el al 2016, Williams et al 2021).  Keep in mind that an identical problem occured in Texas in 2011 (before wind and solar were installed) and the Texans decided not to do anything to prevent reoccurance.  Are you blaming the 2011 failure on wind?

    Poorly designed thermal power plants caused the failures in Texas.  Blaming wind and solar for improperly designed thermal plants does not make sense.

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  4. Yes the basic reason for the Texas blackout was failure with gas and nuclear power. Basically Texas had failed to insulate supply pipe etc despite having similar problems in the past. They just didn't want to spend the money although other states have. Texas grid is also independent so they couldnt import power and this is because of further cost saving and ideological reasons. I found this commentary about a week ago:

    As the commentary proved, the actual problem with wind power in the Texas power outage was not its electrical performance per se. In fact I recall seeing some information elsewhere that it was producing higher than expected output. The real problem is some of the blades iced up. However technolgy exists to stop this happening. Its possible to fit this to both new and existing turbines. The underlying problem was again ERCOT not spending the money.

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  5. Typical systems available to stop icing on wind turbine blades:


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    Moderator Response:

    [RH] Shortened link.

  6. In response to Eric's comment

    There is no question that the natural gas source electric generation dropped during the critical period from late in the day February 14th until early morning on the February 15th.

    I have attached the link to grid monitor which details the electric generation by source (its the 4th chart on the site and you will need to select a custom date range)


    From February 12th natural gas electric generation went from approx 35-37GW per hour to a max of 44gw per hour at 9pm Feb 14. Then at approx 1.30 am was the percipatice drop down to 33GW, then a further drop to approx 28GW per hour by 3pm on the 15th. A total drop of approx 16GW of natural gas generated electricity or  approx 36% drop.

    At the same time wind source electric generation typically runs between 12GW to 20GW per hour. During the period Feb 10th though Feb 14th, Wind source generation ranged in the 2GW to 8GW per hour. Wind reached a max during that period of 9gw per hour midday Feb 14th and dropped to approx 0.9GW per hour by mid day Feb 15th . Electric generation from solar generally ranges in the 4GW -5GW per hour during the day. During the period from Feb 10through Feb 14th, solar reached a high of 1.9GW per hour and did not produce more than 1GW per hour until the mid day on the 15th producing a high of 2.7GW and quickly dropping back down.  Electric generation from Both solar and wind were expected to drop to approx 20-25% of normal generation.  


    for reference purposes, the total electric generation was hitting a high of appprox 65-66 GW per hour in the ERCOT system (sorry if i lost the link to this state ).  The peak summer hits in the area of 750-78GW per hour. 

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  7. Sorry - gotta correct a few typo's should read -

    for reference purposes, the total electric generation for the ERCOT grid was hitting a high of appprox 65-66 GW per hour in the ERCOT system (sorry if i lost the link to this site ). The peak summer hits in the area of 75gw-78GW per hour (based on my recollection).

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