The Day After Tomorrow: Renewables Fail Edition

Guest “The best laid plans of mice and men…” by David Middleton

Note: I had originally titled this post, The Day After Tomorrow: ERCOT Fail Edition, and ERCOT did fail. But I changed the title because, even though the failure was system-wide, wind power totally failed, solar never showed up, while natural gas, coal and nuclear power were all that prevented the entire State of Texas from freezing in the dark. Despite these facts, some in the media are reporting that wind power saved the day, while fossil fuels and nuclear power failed.

Reporting from Ice Station Dallas

Current weather conditions at 0630: 21 °F (-6 °) with about 3-6 inches of snow on the ground. The normal low temperature on 17 February is 40 °F (4 °C)… It’s now ~10 °C below normal. This is a huge improvement over my previous report. Both the weather and the power situations seem to be improving. The weather situation was unavoidable, however the the power situation was inexcusable. Almost all of the electrical grid in Texas is overseen by ERCOT, the Electric Reliability Council of Texas and ERCOT utterly failed in the “reliability” department.

Many on the right have been somewhat unfairly placing all of the blame on frozen wind turbines, many on the left have been idiotically placing the blame on natural gas & coal, and retardedly on nuclear power plants. The failures to deal with freezing weather were system-wide.

The power situation is disastrous, and it likely won’t be fixed tonight
February 15, 2021 at 2:50 pm by Eric Berger

Millions of customers in the greater Houston region continue to experience some of our coldest weather in decades without the benefit of electricity to heat their homes. (Full disclosure, I am one of them, and have been since 2 am CT. I am typing this from my office, wearing a winter jacket).

To understand what is going on, and when the power might return, I spoke this afternoon with Kenny Mercado, CenterPoint Energy’s Executive Vice President for Electric Utility.

First, it is important to understand how power generation works in Texas. Power plants across the state generate electricity from natural gas, coal, wind, solar, and other sources. This is all put onto the grid, which is managed by the Electric Reliability Council of Texas. Then it is up to companies like CenterPoint to deliver electricity to your home through its network of lines and poles. (Reliant, the sponsor of Space City Weather, markets and sells electricity to the customer. They are not directly responsible for generation or delivery).

What happened
As of 2 pm on Monday, about 1.1 million of CenterPoint’s 2.6 million customers are without power in the greater Houston area. Mercado said customers without power are unlikely to get electricity back today, and quite possibly not tonight—when temperatures are forecast to reach near all-time record lows.

Two things happened last night to contribute to these outages. First, demand was extraordinarily high across the state, Mercado said. And then, beginning at about 1 am, generating units started to shut down. This is almost certainly due to extremely cold conditions. Eventually about one-third of the anticipated capacity went offline. This included a handful of freezing wind turbines, but the majority of the volume losses were due to coal and natural gas plants going offline.

[…]

Space City Weather

This remark is moronic:

Eventually about one-third of the anticipated capacity went offline. This included a handful of freezing wind turbines, but the majority of the volume losses were due to coal and natural gas plants going offline.

Eric Berger, Space City Weather

“A handful of freezing wind turbines”? At least half of the wind generation capacity has been knocked offline since Sunday. It’s only a “handful” in the sense that wind power only accounts for 20-25% of Texas electricity generation. When you start with only two hands full of wind turbines and you lose one hand to frostbite, I suppose you’ve only lost a handful… [/SARC]

“The majority of the volume losses were due to coal and natural gas plants going offline”? Well, no schist Sherlock. About 70% of ERCOT’s generating capacity is comprised of natural gas and coal-fired power plants… So, of course, the majority of the volume losses have been among natural gas power plants. However, coal-fired and nuclear power plants (all two of them) have been relatively unaffected.

The fact is that almost all of the electricity currently being delivered to the ERCOT grid is coming from natural gas, coal-fired and nuclear power plants.

Ryan Zom, Clear Creek Resource Partners

Here is the latest daily ERCOT capacity mix:

EIA

The breakdown for 16 February 2021:

MWh %
Wind Generation           73,395 6%
Solar Generation           20,134 2%
Hydro Generation             3,833 0%
Other Generation                682 0%
Natural gas Generation         759,708 65%
Coal Generation         204,655 18%
Nuclear Generation           98,394 8%
Total     1,160,801 100%
EIA

Fossil fuels accounted for 83% of our electricity generation yesterday. Fossil fuels + nuclear accounted for 92%.

While there is plenty of blame to go around, ERCOT had a “dress rehearsal” for this in 2011. At least back then, they successfully employed rotating outages. We haven’t lost power, while many of our friends have been without power since early Monday morning.

Texas has more wind power capacity and natural gas production than many, if not most, nations. This cluster frack is inexcusable and an embarrassment to the Great State of Texas. We now know that President Donald Trump and Energy Secretary Rick Perry were 100% correct when they asked FERC to ensure that our coal-fired and nuclear power plant fleets be kept in service.

Oct 2, 2017,05:11am EDT

Rick Perry Directs FERC To Complete Final Action On Resiliency Pricing Rule In 60 Days

Rod Adams Contributor
Energy

[…]

Eligible grid reliability and resiliency resource is any resource that:

1. is an electric generation resource physically located within a Commission-approved independent system operator or regional transmission organization;
2. is able to provide essential energy and ancillary reliability services, including but not limited to voltage support, frequency services, operating reserves, and reactive power;
3. has a 90-day fuel supply on site enabling it to operate during an emergency, extreme weather conditions, or a natural or man-made disaster;
4. is compliant with all applicable federal, state, and local environmental laws, rules, and regulations; and
5. is not subject to cost of service rate regulation by any state or local regulatory authority

All licensed nuclear power plants and a significant portion of existing coal plants can meet those requirements today.

[…]

Forbes

WASHINGTON, DC – JUNE 29: (AFP OUT) U.S. President Donald Trump (L) embraces Energy Secretary Rick Perry as Vice President Mike Pence applauds (R), after Trump delivered remarks on at the Unleashing American Energy event at the Department of Energy on June 29, 2017 in Washington, DC. Trump announced a number on initiatives including his Administration’s plan on rolling back regulations on energy production and development. (Photo by Kevin Dietsch-Pool/Getty Images)

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February 17, 2021 at 04:15PM

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