We Spent Billions on Wind Power… and All I Got Was a Rolling Blackout

Windmills in the Texas panhandle - photo by Anthony Watts during a station survey tour

By Mike Smith, Meteorological Musings

The Electric Reliability Council of Texas said 7,000 megawatts of generating capacity tripped ["tripped" means failed]Tuesday night, leaving the state without enough juice. That’s enough capacity to power about 1.4 million homes. By rotating outages, ERCOT said it prevented total blackouts.
“We have the double whammy of extremely high demand, given the lowest temperatures in 15 years, combined with generation that’s been compromised and is producing less than expected or needed,” said Oncor spokeswoman Catherine Cuellar. Oncor operates power lines in North Texas and facilitated the blackouts for ERCOT.

— above from the “Dallas Morning News

The article didn’t give a clue as to what generating capability failed, but I can make a pretty good guess: Wind energy.

When the wind is light, the turbine blades do not turn. And, the coldest nights usually occur with snow cover and light winds. The 9pm weather map for the region is below. The red number at upper right is the current temperature and they are well below zero deep into New Mexico and parts of Kansas and Colorado, so regional power use is high. Springfield, CO was already -15°F. Temperatures are in the single digits and teens over most Texas with very light winds in the areas where the turbines are located.

Map courtesy National Center for Atmospheric Research

For a time, Texas was bragging about being the #1 state for “wind power” (it still is) and we were bombarded with TV commercials and newspaper editorial touting the “Pickens Plan” for massive spending on wind energy. Pickens himself was building a huge wind farm in northwest Texas. He has now ceased construction.

Wind power capacity in 2008. Texas has more than twice as
much as any other state.

Now, because of relying so much on wind power, the state is suffering blackouts. My book’s publisher, Greenleaf Book Group in Austin, was without power all day and Austin wasn’t even affected by the recent winter storm. Mexico is trying to help by shipping power to Texas, but it is not enough.

Of course, Great Britain has experienced wind power failures (and rolling blackouts) during cold weather due to light winds. So has Minnesota, just last winter. I think we should learn from them.

If Texas had made the same dollar investment in new coal and/or nuclear power plants they would probably be snug and warm tonight. Do we we really want to sacrifice our families’ safety and security along with business productivity during extreme cold for the sake of political correctness?

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Also FYI – Texas wind power induced blackouts happened in 2008, see this story.

See Mike Smith’s book on “how science tamed the weather”.

http://ecx.images-amazon.com/images/I/41WMr2XunYL._BO2,204,203,200_PIsitb-sticker-arrow-click,TopRight,35,-76_AA300_SH20_OU01_.jpg

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UPDATE: 2/3

THE PLOT THICKENS. Please read the addition to this story (at the bottom): http://meteorologicalmusings.blogspot.com/2011/02/equal-time-american-wind-energy.html

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263 thoughts on “We Spent Billions on Wind Power… and All I Got Was a Rolling Blackout

  1. I read that story. What I didn’t understand (give me the dunce hat award) but doesn’t it require more energy to cool Texas when it’s hot vs. energy when it’s cold? Or are air conditioners hard wired to run all the time while heat is an extra burden? I also noticed that private homes were the only ones affected. The article was careful to point out that industry was not included in the blackouts. That’s strange and not very condusive for quality of life for the masses. The article reminded me of the Enron blackouts in California.

  2. I’m pretty cheesed about having to go through the rolling blackouts today – and with no warning! Just saw the local hospital director on the news saying that it would have been a lot easier to cope with if someone would have told them the power was going to be cut! Of course the hospitals have backup generators, but they had to scramble to put them online when all the power was cut with no warning at 7 am this morning.

    Nobody in charge thought it was important to let anyone know in advance. Brilliant.

    One other thing I’ve heard is that there was a big drop in pressure in the nat gas pipelines, due to a host of backup generation facilities all being kicked on at the same time and with no overall coordination. This only aggravated the problems the grid was having. Of course, a lot of these backup facilities exist to keep the grid supplied when the wind generators go down.

  3. Really?

    It took me less than two seconds to find this:

    Early explanations for the widespread unit outages were slim. One state regulator — the Texas Railroad Commission — said power outages affected some fuel deliveries to gas-fired power plants, forcing them to reduce power output.

    Rolling blackouts hit gas processing plants operated by Kinder Morgan and Enterprise Products Partners LP, which crimped deliveries to the Frontera electric plant in McAllen, the commission said.

    Near Dallas-Fort Worth, frozen pipeline compressors spurred Atmos Mid-Tex to curtail gas deliveries to 300 industrial customers, it said.

    http://news.yahoo.com/s/nm/20110203/us_nm/us_ercot_rollingblackots_5

    No mention, anywhere, of turbines not “turbining.”

    REPLY: I think what Mike was trying to point out is that the wind power didn’t pick up the load…it was offline for the most part too. Had it been online, the blackouts might not have been needed. – Anthony

  4. I sincerely hope the Texans and many others will collectively sue the wind energy companies, as well as the states that force this nonsense to their people, for their inability to provide reliable energy when the people need it most.

  5. this story reminds me of this one: “Power Blip Jolts Supply of Gadget Chips” http://online.wsj.com/article/SB10001424052748703766704576009071694055878.html
    An Excerpt: “Toshiba’s troubles started early Wednesday when, according to power supplier Chubu Electric Power Co., there was a sudden drop in voltage that caused a 0.07-second power interruption at Toshiba’s Yokkaichi memory-chip plant in Mie prefecture.”

    This very short interruption will reduce Toshiba’s chip production by “…up to 20% next year.”

    http://www.chinapost.com.tw/business/asia/japan/2010/12/10/283067/Toshiba-says.htm

    Wind power?
    What a complete mis-allocation of resources and waste of money!
    At some point, the insanity has to end.

  6. That is an interesting theory (not true in this case), but the winds in many parts of Texas rarely cease. I thought that the idea of the wind power was to create excess power, not be the only source?

    Note: 1 megawatt will power about 200 homes. 7,000 megawatt loss means 1.4 million homes would be affected.

    The cause of the recent rolling blackouts was the failure of two coal power plants, due to water pipes that burst.

    An additional 50 plants, that should have been on the grid to cover for those two had other weather related problems that lowered their capacity. Natural gas power plants that should have provided back up had difficulty starting due to low pressure in the supply lines, also caused by the cold weather.

  7. I’m not sure how the wind power generation played into it, but the primary cause was burst water pipes at two coal plants, and difficulties getting natural gas plants running, both due to the cold. Demand is well below summer peak demand, even with the cold temperatures, but between failing plants and normal maintenance rotation, capacity fell below demand. Also, Mexico stepped in and provided some MW, which helped reduce the need for blackouts.

    http://www.chron.com/disp/story.mpl/ap/tx/7409400.html

    http://www.reuters.com/article/2011/02/03/us-ercot-rollingblackouts-idUSTRE71213420110203

  8. Brad, your news story said one plant shut down because it had “a frozen pile of coal.”

    Hrm… I can’t quite figure that one out. If it’s exposed to snow and ice, it’s exposed to the rain, so moisture isn’t the issue. Doesn’t the plant have a front-end loader or other handy machines that can break the stuff up?

  9. “REPLY: I think what Mike was trying to point out is that the wind power didn’t pick up the load…it was offline for the most part too. Had it been online, the blackouts might not have been needed. – Anthony”

    But isn’t that exactly the opposite of what wind power is designed to do? All these new gas plants are the ones designed to go on and off line quickly for peaking loads.

  10. I think what Mike was trying to point out is that the wind power didn’t pick up the load…it was offline for the most part too.

    Uh, I haven’t read anything about the turbines being off-line. Maybe I’d better put my glasses on and re-read the post.

    All I read was that he was “guessing” that that was what happened. Is “guessing” good enough, now?

  11. As others have pointed out, it seems that a couple of *coal* fired plants went down and trigger the crisis.

    Ooops.

  12. George Turner-

    Actually, many newer plants cannot use old fashioned tractors and the like to move coal at the rates they need, they often have it in a large hopper type of thing and the coal is pulled off the bottom via conveyer belt – I think they mean that coal did not flow down the hopper to the conveyor belt and was frozen or stuck, thus coal did not move to the boilers. Just specualtion, but makes sense.

  13. Anthony,
    Thank you…that is EXACTLY what I was trying to say. If the money had been spent on conventional power plants, nuclear or coal, there would be power tonight. But, because of the calm winds, there isn’t any output from the wind turbines.
    Mike

  14. TX Loads for previous day (2-01): http://www.ercot.com/content/cdr/html/20110201_actual_loads_of_weather_zones

    Note: The cold weather hit in the wee hours of the morning; we were down to 32 deg F at about 3:30 AM CST and 20 degrees at 7 AM. In the evening it was down to about 14 degrees at 9 PM with wind (as well as wind all day).

    TX Loads for today (2-02): http://www.ercot.com/content/cdr/html/20110202_actual_loads_of_weather_zones

    The temperature this morning (the 2nd) was 12 deg F. with some wind. It is now 17.5 deg F at 11:16 PM CST. Some wind but nothing like yesterday.

    My previous post on this subject re: the cause and a Texas PUC member comment on same.

    .

  15. I was all ready to start shouting about clean renewable energy until that b******d posted the article on the burst water pipes. Now, I’ll have to figure out somewhere else to spout my righteous indignation. Living in Marin County I am certain I won’t have to wait long until something pops up.

  16. A lot of people seem to be in quick submit mode. An FYI from Wikipedia:

    * The spinning reserve is the extra generating capacity that is available by increasing the power output of generators that are already connected to the power system. For most generators, this increase in power output is achieved by increasing the torque applied to the turbine’s rotor.[3]

    * The non-spinning or supplemental reserve is the extra generating capacity that is not currently connected to the system but can be brought online after a short delay. In isolated power systems, this typically equates to the power available from fast-start generators.[3] However in interconnected power systems, this may include the power available on short notice by importing power from other systems or retracting power that is currently being exported to other systems.

    As has been pointed out, there was no reserve, or it was inadequate. If wind power plays a significant part of your production capacity, and it’s unavailable, you either get rolling blackouts or a full on black-out.

  17. Rattus Norvegicus February 2, 2011 at 9:07 pm

    As others have pointed out, it seems that a couple of *coal* fired plants went down and trigger the crisis.

    Ooops.

    Coupled with record use for this time of year. Spurred on by record cold – and wind.

    Everybody has also been home the last couple of days; all schools closed, little traffic on the roads and preparations underway in North Central Texas for the SuperBowl in Arlington, Texas.

    .

  18. The birds on my birdfeeder have put up a windmill. It’s one of those toys which we remember from our childhood, a stick with a plastic fan which can be put out of a car window or put in front of a fan so it turns. They did not put it up for power generation. Thay have discovered that it scares away the squirrels which rob the birdseed. Unlike a “wind farm” [wind farm is an oxymoran], let’s try wind industrial site, it does not kill birds. However it has a drawback: It only scares the squirrel when the wind is blowing.

  19. The purpose of windmills was to provide generating capacity. Perhaps digging in and finding precisely what, if any, capacity the windmills were providing would be useful. Is there a way to determine this, or is this something for which one needs FOIA and a legal team? Seems to me to be the penultimate test: the chips were down and a fossil fuel plant failed, so how well did the backup plan perform?

  20. Anthony, are you reading my mind? ☺
    I just commented this in an older article but this one fits it so much better,
    so I repeat:

    Now we really get to see how well the politicians have spent our billions and billions of tax dollars in preparation of such inevitable weather events, lulled asleep by AGW “scientists” harping that such events were only of the past. Now they lie and say they knew it all along.

    It don’t look pretty. Vote the guilty out of office and ask your new representatives to defund them all. Now!

  21. Simple- no back up period. No wind, no back up. more gas plants, more coal, more nukes,
    Anthony’s point-it can’t take up the slack if it isn’t capable. Bonneville power is having
    all sorts of problems with the erratic surge and slack and it will bite us here in the
    NW US…

  22. The ironic thing is that I read just the other day that one of the utilities in Texas had stopped any forward motion on a nuclear plant there because they could not find a customer for the power.

    Published just yesterday:

    http://www.nytimes.com/2011/02/01/business/energy-environment/01nuke.html?src=busln

    in Texas, a would-be builder has been driven to try something never done before in nuclear construction: finding a buyer for the electricity before the concrete is even poured. Customers are not rushing forward, given that the market is awash in generating capacity and an alternative fuel, natural gas, is currently cheap.

  23. February 2, 2011 at 9:21 pm

    Anthony,
    Thank you…that is EXACTLY what I was trying to say. If the money had been spent on conventional power plants, nuclear or coal, there would be power tonight. But, because of the calm winds, there isn’t any output from the wind turbines.
    Mike

    Um … I’m thinking: No.

    The plan was to go-ahead with the plants they had scheduled (it was standard base-load plants and normally available nat. gas-powered peakers); maybe they need to review their N-1 contingency plans during cold wx?

    I do STRONGLY suggest the geniuses on-board here tonight second guessing those whose job it is day-in and day-out making these generation and load schedules hear-out the PUC member whose interview may be found at a link above …

    .

  24. Any jurisdiction that counts on wind power as part of its base load capacity deserves every blackout black eye it gets.

  25. It is often stated with wind power that if you have a widely distrubuted windmill system, you will always have wind somewhere, generating power.

    Have a look at the following website for wind farm performance here in Australia for the south eastern interconnected grid system. This is a grid that spans about 1500 km by 1000 km. The annual charts are telling, for 2010 there are quite often times when the wind farm system is generating less than 10% installed capacity, with at least once zero.

    http://windfarmperformance.info/

  26. Power interruption from a couple of coal-fired plants triggered a crisis.
    I wonder what it will be called when they’re all shut down.

  27. Brad, I guess in the old days they would’ve just shoved a couple sticks of dynamite in the pile to loosen it up. I had a 1920’s copy of the DuPont Blaster’s Handbook which recommended dynamite for loosening frozen coal and gravel in railroad cars. They also had lots of uses around the house, such as setting off buried charges near your trees to loosen up the soil and improve aeration. As with most bad things in life, this power outage could’ve been prevented by the proper application of high explosives.

  28. Coming from a country, Denmark, where 20%+ of the generating capacity is based on windmills and where blackouts are Exceptionally rare, this and related “wind power” posts were a hoot to read and quite in line with my impression of the author&readership of WUWT in general, exceptions noted:)

    -The trick to providing a stable energy supply based to a large extent on intermittent renewables (or failing coal plants, for that matter…)? An inter-regional, modern electricity grid, which is what the US most certainly does not have in most regions.

  29. Two plants failed, what was their output? Spinning reserve might be able to take up the slack depending on the amount of generation lost. Usually when there is a sudden shortage of generation there is load shedding and industrial load is usually the first to go off line. With spinning reserve and load shed working together the system should stay intack. There can also be a restriction on the capacity of transmission lines to carry power from an area with generation to an area short of generation. Windpower generally cannot be used for spinning reserve as it is kind of hard to turn up the wind.

    Now I would say power system planning seems to have been biased toward wind to the detriment of conventional power and transmission.If planning was more conventional there may not have been blackouts. I am speaking with 35 years experience as a power system operator/dispatcher.

    Hopefully the facts will come out and be reported here. There was not enough backup for bird mincers.

  30. crosspatch says:
    February 2, 2011 at 9:44 pm

    “The ironic thing is that I read just the other day that one of the utilities in Texas had stopped any forward motion on a nuclear plant there because they could not find a customer for the power.”

    Maybe reality will set in after this. As far as I know, nuclear power plants are not effected by weather conditions.

  31. The author’s mistake seems to be that he assumes “cold means no wind.”

    Well, I don’t know about Texas, but it was 25 degrees here this morning, and the wind was blowing like crazy. There may be something about the UK that the wind doesn’t blow when it gets cold, but I don’t think that applies to Texas (I know it doesn’t apply to Mississippi.)

    As far as I can see the Wind Turbines did what was expected, but a couple of coal plants went down, and so did their nat gas “back-ups.” I’ll be danged if I can see how that was “Wind’s” fault.

  32. Who cares if wind turbines were working? A 30% capacity factor AT BEST. Texans now pay 50% more for power since 2006 (sharp price rise with wind generation capacity growth). It comes with a requirement for smart grid – far worse than a TSA groping. Yes, I like having my stuff turned off by someone or something else, and the government knowing what I do in my home. I like having identity thieves hacking my computer through the wires in my home (they will be able to do that soon if you aren’t careful), and bureaucrats sniffing my email. It makes me warm and fuzzy to think how my vital services can be so easily manipulated by the People’s Liberation Army (China). Security? Soggy tissue paper.

    if($mood =~ m/sarcasm/){$mood =~ s/sarcasm/anger/;}
    …because the situation is too dangerous to be witty.

    The proper path forward is being taken by China as already posted on WUWT: Thorium-based nuclear power using liquid sodium or fluoride IFRs. A small fraction of the money we are flushing down the social program rathole (to create more dependency) could be better spent to build reliable inexpensive domestic energy and to grow the space program. These investments would return many times the dollars spent. They would help us leap forward to create new industries and jobs, which would mean the vast social programs would not be needed. But no, this administration has the goal of knocking us all down several notches to gain even more control over what’s left of the free market and our privacy.

  33. Mods I am hiding my name as it is instantly recognizable in my industry.

    But I have some things to say that can help everyone.

    I spent most of the day dealing with the rolling blackouts in our various data centers in Texas. We buy power in huge amounts and we also have huge standby generation systems.

    We moved to diesel systems two years ago because we felt NG had a flaw in that the pumping station could fail or the NG provider could move us to the back of the queue. Today vindicated that move. A number of other providers relied on NG systems which did not provide the load needed and drained their UPS systems and nearly failed. Some providers did fail. A number of large corporations lost their data centers.

    We did not. We had from three to eight blackouts at our data centers in the DFW area and burned from 5% to 20% of our fuel reserves in order to stay up.

    On site captive capacity is the only way to go. We plan to add an additional 18 hours of run time in the form of fuel tanks.

    Another issue we had to deal with was the nearly complete loss of our staff . Most of them were working at home and the blackouts that took them down . We usually have stacked shifts on site to respond to issues and rely on being able to bring staff on line remotely, but most of the off site staff were rendered ineffective because they lost power at home.

    This affected not only our operations but most of our clients as well. This was a big deal.

    Another issue is remote access. We usually have 30% of the staff working at any one time on site. Due to the emergency we had to support customers failing over to colo DR and we had to support that RAS as well as our 100% surge in staff access. We have RAS systems at all our major sites and were able to distribute the load around those nodes and then reconfigure the network as needed. A lot of other people ran out of RAS capacity and had some major issues.

    Redundant connections from two or more providers. Everyone worries about the fiber cut, but no one expects to lose network because of rolling blackouts. Well, it happens. BGP is your friend.

    Food and water. Get a small freezer and keep frozen meals in it.

    Here is my take on wind.

    Complex systems :

    The wind generation and NG generation capacity are coupled together and are a complex system. A linear stimulus will not generate a linear response and small events in different parts of the system will cascade in unpredictable ways. On a systems analysis basis, it is stupid to have both types of capacities in the same grid. ERCOT has warned about too much wind and something like this for years.

    Opportunity cost:

    Had Texas invested all that wind money in a bunch of nukes none of this would have happened. A nuke generates a steady load and has a very high availability rate – over 97%. And the plants are built to be highly reliable with multiple paths. They just do not quit unlike the BS we saw today.

  34. Kristoffer Haldrup says:
    February 2, 2011 at 10:36 pm
    Interconnected grids sounds good, but in closely geographic countries this only works well when energy sources are not weather dependant. I do not dispute the 20% wind generation energy claim, but would point out that almost half of that is exported to close geographical neighbors. In return Denmark imports energy from countries that have coal and nuclear power to cover weather related variations in wind power.

    http://www.world-nuclear.org/info/inf99.html

    It should be noted that Denmark’s commitment to wind power is heavily subsidized, and projected viability of manufacturing was based on exports to nations now becoming increasingly dubious about intermittent un-storable energy sources.

  35. Texas has, I think, three nuclear power plants with a total of five units. How many of those went down because of the weather? Zip as near as I can find.

  36. Go back to 2006 and read the Dallas Morning News and look at the campaign to kill the half dozen new power plants. The DMN, mayors including Bill White and the environmental lobby succeeded in preventing the approval of a half dozen new power plants proposed by Texas Utilities.

    Then go to the web site of the Texas Public Utilities and look at the additions to the power grid since 2006.

    http://www.puc.state.tx.us/electric/maps/index.cfm

    This relates back to the story about China and the MSR. They are developing a system to provide cheap, reliable electrical power. The USA on the other hand is developing the most expensive forms of electrical generation while driving up the cost of conventional generation and regulating nuclear out of existence.

  37. “Kristoffer Haldrup says:
    February 2, 2011 at 10:36 pm
    Coming from a country, Denmark, where 20%+ of the generating capacity is based on windmills and where blackouts are Exceptionally rare, this and related “wind power” posts were a hoot to read and quite in line with my impression of the author&readership of WUWT in general, exceptions noted:)

    -The trick to providing a stable energy supply based to a large extent on intermittent renewables (or failing coal plants, for that matter…)? An inter-regional, modern electricity grid, which is what the US most certainly does not have in most regions.”

    Apparently you aren’t aware that Denmark exports most of the wind power to Sweden, which has a Hydro/Nuclear based power system which can handle sudden changes in power availability (and laws that require users to buy wind power whether they want or not).
    Also Denmark can easily import reliable hydro power from Norway and Sweden whenever needed. Remember that no grid is yet smart enough to create power out of nothing.

  38. There may be something about the UK that the wind doesn’t blow when it gets cold, but I don’t think that applies to Texas (I know it doesn’t apply to Mississippi.)

    In the UK very cold periods in the winter are usually caused by a stationary high pressure region with clear skies and no winds. It happens every cold winter for a period of a week or so. One happened in December, and the result was that wind power generation, normally around 2% of supply, vanished. The zone typically covers quite a large area, the whole of the UK and coastal regions.

    There are some countries that simply cannot make wind power a substantial percentage of their generating capacity for geographical climate reasons, and the UK is one of them. Every bit of wind generating capacity you install has to be 100% backed up by conventional, and it has to be available at fairly short notice throughout the winter, because although you know that one of these episodes is very likely, as the Met Office has found out, predicting them is very very difficult.

    So the real capital cost of your wind power installations is not what it seems. You have to add to it the full capital cost of the backup conventional plants. So the comparison is

    capital costs: wind + conventional versus conventional only
    running costs: wind + conventional versus conventional only

    I am sure you save something by not burning as much conventional fuel, but this is what can be applied to ROI on the wind plant. And by the time you add in the maintenance costs for each…? I have never seen a proper study of this stuff, but it seems very doubtful that if you look at it in these terms, there is any way wind can pay for itself.

    Of course, if you try to have 20-30% of your power generation from wind with no backup, get ready for a national disaster one week in December. Or January. Or February. With only a few days warning, and with a lot of false alarms.

  39. The whole bird-shredder industry is a complete waste of money.
    This is from today’s Express –

    INEFFICIENT WINDFARMS “RAISE COST OF ENERGY”

    UK windfarms last year operated at only 24% of their capacity

    DISTURBING figures released yesterday showed UK windfarms last year operated at only 24% of their capacity. And during the bitter pre-Christmas period the figure fell as low as 5.8% efficiency because there was so little wind. The Renewable Energy Foundation, which carried out the research, said reliance on wind power will lead to higher prices for consumers. It also means conventional power stations will be needed to provide back-up.

    Report co-author Dr John Constable, said: “Wind power can be highly variable.” He warned this meant the UK would never be able to dramatically cut conventional generation. And he added: “The result of such uncertainties is higher prices to consumer.”

    Michael Hird of anti- windfarm group Country Guardian said: “This means spending billions to provide conventional power stations for when the windfarms are not working.”

    …Got that? In the big freeze, when we needed the most power, the bird-shredders produced a massive 5.8% efficiency.

  40. That’s incredibly smart to reinvest in coal and nuclear. The world has an infinite supply of coal and we always can call upon the efficiency of Chernobyl as a prime example of nuclear power at it’s best.

    Hey dummies….multiple power sources.. wind, geothermal, solar, R & D for radiant energy and better battery sources….and locally placed kinetic energy recovery systems to stabilize during brown-outs, and just good, old fashioned architecture that accommodates minimum energy consumption, like what those primitives did back in the day before air conditioning and central heating.

    We have the technology today to enable buildings to generate their own electricity. The main power grid should be the backup, while modern architecture and retrofits are made as grid tie ins. You’d still have the need for utility service because you’d need a large number of trained employees to keep the grid-tie ins stable. Today it’s the reverse, because America hates innovators and the prospect of high end investment into technological breakthroughs…like the kind Bell Labs once practiced that lead to the transistor…back in the day when capitalism was functional. The investor class has already placed it’s bets on this country rotting into a third world mess.

  41. nc says:

    Two plants failed, what was their output? Spinning reserve might be able to take up the slack depending on the amount of generation lost. Usually when there is a sudden shortage of generation there is load shedding and industrial load is usually the first to go off line. With spinning reserve and load shed working together the system should stay intack. …..

    …. I am speaking with 35 years experience as a power system operator/dispatcher.

    I trump that. This is my 40th year as a Power System Operator/Dispatcher. :-)

    However you are quite correct. Spinning Reserve and interuptible loable has to serve two purposes. First of all the is Fast Instaneous Reserve (FIR) that has the sole purpose of stopping the rate of decline in the frequency when the largest single event on the system occurs. . This is usually the tripping of the largest connected generator, but can also be a critical transmission circuit that will disconnect a group of generators. Traditional thermal plant is ideal for this, while Gas Turbines are hopeless and sometimes even counter the effect and add to frequency drop. Here in New Zealand FIR is the increase in delivered power that is provided in 6 seconds and held for 30 seconds.

    Next there is Sustained Instanteneous Reserve (SIR) that is to help the frequency recover to within normal limits. We count that as the average increase in power delivered in 30 seconds and held for 15 minutes. Hydro, and gas Turbines come into their own for this.

    Both types of reserve are there to cover the largest single contingency, often referred to as n-1. In this case it appears there were multiple events, and no power system can be expected to carry sufficient reserve for more than n-1. However I’m not sure of the size of the plant that tripped with respect to the largest palnt on the system. If both coal plants were smaller than say the largest nuke, then questions should be asked as to whether sufficient spinning reserve was being carried.

  42. @ George Turner says:
    February 2, 2011 at 10:34 pm
    “Brad, I guess in the old days they would’ve just shoved a couple sticks of dynamite in the pile to loosen it up. I had a 1920′s copy of the DuPont Blaster’s Handbook which recommended dynamite for loosening frozen coal and gravel in railroad cars. They also had lots of uses around the house … ”
    Thanks George enjoyed that one. My mind visualised possible uses ‘around the house’ with my 3 teenagers. 
    We’re having cyclones and floods up north, floods and bushfires down south and a little break from the heat here in Melbourne. I
    ‘m hoping to find out how the wind farm in the way of Yasi faired. Showed my lad the videos of the exploding fans from the other thread. This is such a great site for showing sciency stuff to kids. Also showed them the last data feeds from Willis Is – excellent stuff Anthony.
    Thanks again Anthony, mods, posters and commentators. Best site evah. 
    Cheers Jack

  43. Kum Dollison says: February 2, 2011 at 11:33 pm

    “Well, I don’t know about Texas, but it was 25 degrees here this morning, and the wind was blowing like crazy … As far as I can see the Wind Turbines did what was expected …”

    One thing about wind turbines is that they also have a maximum wind speed, above which they shut down to prevent damage.

    The Suzlon S88 2.1 MW turbine (used in a local windfarm) has a shutdown wind speed of 25m/s, 56 mph or 49 knots. And don’t forget this is the wind speed 80 metres above the ground.

    So when it is “blowing like crazy” windfarms may be generating nothing. Also this shutdown can happen across an entire wind farm almost instantaneously if the wind picks up in a winter storm.

  44. Misinformation here, including in the OP is stunning. No due diligence by Mike Smith. What an utter FAIL.

    First of all Texas doesn’t pay for wind turbines. “We” didn’t spend billions. The subject line itself is 100% unadulterated drivel. Texas spends less than $2 million per year on wind subsidies and these “subsidies” are nothing more than property tax incentives of the same kind given to land used for agriculture, wildlife sanctuaries, and historical monuments.

    http://www.window.state.tx.us/specialrpt/energy/subsidies/index.php#wind

    Federal subsidies, in the form of tax incentives, are quite a bit larger – on the order of half a billion a year. These windfarms are owned by Shell, Exon, and Mobil among others. The accountants get to write off capital invested in the wind turbines and cost of leasing the land. Farmers are quite happy to lease land for a wind turbine as it pays about $5000/yr. per turbine and doesn’t impact farming activities at all which is essentially how phone companies lease land for their cell towers. Same scheme.

    If you don’t like the federal tax breaks talk to your congressmen. Those have nothing to do with Texas.

    The electricity itself is sold on the open market and has to compete just like all the electrical providers. Current rates in Texas average $0.12/kwh which is 10% below the national average and lower than both California ($0.14/kwh) and New York ($0.19/kwh) which are the only comparably sized state economies.

    Last, this was only the second rolling blackout in the past 20 years. The last was in 2006 caused by a heat wave. The author, Mike Smith, if he’d done just a tiny scrap of due diligence, would have learned that two power plants, one gas and one coal, went offline due to broken water pipes and natural gas pipeline pressure was low due to some transient pump problem which contributed to people turning on electric heaters when their gas furnaces didn’t have enough pressure. It was something of a perfect storm of failures coupled with the coldest arctic air mass to hit the state in a decade. It had jack-diddly-squat to do with wind turbines.

  45. Ooops. That sentence “Spinning Reserve and interuptible loable ….” should read “Spinning Reserve and interuptible load ….”

  46. It is becoming very obvious that politicians and civic authorities in the Western world have convinced themselves that continuous climate warming is a fact and are not taking the very high possibility of cold weather as a part of natural variation seriously.
    The situation here in the UK is becoming increasingly worrying as said authorities have their heads stuck in ‘warm’ mode and policy has not taken cognisance of reality. This winter and the previous two winters have been cold enough to disrupt transport systems of every kind in quite major ways and at a major cost to the nation. It has also directly caused an increase in the incidence of the elderly dying of the cold through their inability to fund the costs of their basic heating needs; The huge recent rise in the price of heating oil has led to a sharp rise in the number of thefts of this commoditiy from household tanks in the countryside, which has left some elderly citizens in dire circumstances. The cavalier attitude of the politicians to the deaths is disgraceful, and their response is even more disgraceful – they promise to spend even more on expensive wind farms which cannot produce energy when the wind is insuficient to drive them during periods of very low temperature. The United Kingdom’s politicians have convinced themselves of a vicious fable and the citizenry will pay the price in high costs, death and misery.

    I am convinced, after a quick look at the facts coming in from Texas, that windmills can not provide rational answers to their energy problems.

  47. @tty

    I am very much aware of that fact, which is also why I stress the necessity of an interREGIONAL, modern and flexible power grid. That allows Denmark to buy, for example, nuclear generated power from Germany and Sweden when wind&hydro are low, while we sell our excess power production to these same nations at market-competetive prices when the wind is blowing nicely and supply exceeds demand.

    Make no mistake, even in Northern Europe the energy market&infrastructure is no-where near a level of maturity that would allow a full-scale shift to renewables. However, in our and other regions the relevant energy technologies are quite mature enough to allow for intermittent renewables to make up a decent percentage of total power generation, and to compete on even terms with e.g. fossil fuels on the energy markets. The technologies would not have matured to this level without the heavy subsidies of previous decades, though, and we are still in a somewhat transitional state:)

  48. Kum,

    What’s your day job ?…..i’m betting it’s not in engineering because all you’re giving us is (politician’s and media) rhetoric.

    Jimmy

  49. The wind power industry has yet to design a system that can work in all weathers, ice will shut down a windmill or destroy it, ice building up on the blades and throwing off on one will kill anything within radius, destroy bearings etc,. the heating systems (as of those in Texas ) were not designed for sub zero temp. (remember we got into this mess because of global warming ) sudden wind change, high winds, extra high temp. all shut down the turbine .

  50. This is an unfortunate article, as it appears to rely heavily upon guesswork. It’s all very well coming back later and offering “What I meant to say was…”, but the nature of the raging debate on this issue means weakness of this kind undermines the credibility of the source, in this case, the author. I don’t doubt the extensive research behind the book, but a stab in the dark aids no cause.

  51. Anon says:
    February 2, 2011 at 11:44 pm

    Mods I am hiding my name as it is instantly recognizable in my industry.

    But I have some things to say that can help everyone.

    Had Texas invested all that wind money in a bunch of nukes none of this would have happened.

    It doesn’t help to say something that isn’t true. The state of Texas does not invest money in electrical generating plants. These are privately owned and operated and must compete with each other on the open market. Texas average electricity rates are 10% below the national average. If nuclear power plants could profitably compete with other suppliers then they would get built and if they can’t compete they won’t get built – it’s just that simple. The market is open, generating plants are privately owned and operated, and if there is profit potential there will be investment capital to build them.

  52. There’s something about windmills having heating systems installed to enable them to continue functioning in extreme cold, even with wind blowing internal gubbins can seize up.

  53. “Austin wasn’t even affected by the recent winter storm”

    Bullshite. I live in Austin. We had 60mph straight line winds when the cold front arrived and temperatures plunged to 16F. That’s the lowest temperature I’ve ever seen in Austin and I’ve lived there 18 years. I have two homes, one is heated by gas and the other by electricity. You bet your ass Austin was effected as my electric furnace and many others worked overtime in that low temperature.

  54. Kristoffer Haldrup says:
    February 2, 2011 at 10:36 pm

    “Coming from a country, Denmark, where 20%+ of the generating capacity is based on windmills and where blackouts are Exceptionally rare, this and related “wind power” posts were a hoot to read and quite in line with my impression of the author&readership of WUWT in general, exceptions noted:)

    -The trick to providing a stable energy supply based to a large extent on intermittent renewables (or failing coal plants, for that matter…)? An inter-regional, modern electricity grid, which is what the US most certainly does not have in most regions.”

    Yes it helps to have French Nukes and Norwegian and Swedish hydro connected to your grid and to pay other countries to take your useless wind power when they don’t really want it.

    Smug Danish git.

  55. A point of detail – as far as I know, the UK has not so far suffered ‘rolling blackouts’ because the wind did not blow.
    However, the crazy UK energy policy now in place means that regular blackouts are now almost inevitable before the end of the present decade, unless the decision to close down several coal-fired power stations is reversed, and amazing progress is made in building new fossil fuel generating capacity.

  56. Friends:

    I write in hope of providing some clarity to this debate.

    Several here seem unaware of the difference between
    (a) total electricity supply available
    and
    (b) available total electricity supply.

    I write to explain why the difference makes Mike Smith’s article correct in that the use of windfarms caused the Texas ‘brownouts’ when two thermal power stations went off-line.

    Power stations operate spinning standby to match electricity demand to supply. In addition to this, other power stations operate spinning standby to manage risk of supply failures. There is a risk of failure of a base load power station or the transmission system from it. Such failures would cause power cuts in the absence of the additional spinning standby.

    Windfarms provide intermittent power. Hence, windfarms increase the risk of supply failures. Indeed, they give the certainty of supply failures when the wind is too strong or not strong enough.

    The increased risk of supply failures from windfarms is insignificant when there is small contribution of electricity to the grid from windfarms. All the output from the windfarms forces thermal power stations to operate spinning standby or at reduced output that can cope with the risk.

    But the problem of managing the risk increases disproportionately as the risk increases.

    Electricity is not wanted in the same amounts everywhere, and electricity is lost when it is transmitted over long distances. The additional risk management difficulties require additional spinning standby when the risk of supply failures is very large. Otherwise it would be impossible to match supply with demand throughout the grid when a large supply failure occurred. Indeed, the Texas failures occurred when a large supply failure coincided with little output from wind turbines. This could only have been avoided by construction – and operation on continuous spinning standby – of additional power stations to match the maximum output of the wind turbines.

    So, additional power stations must be built and operated on spinning standby (using their additional fuel and providing their additional emissions) to manage the increased risk of power cuts from supply failures when windpower contributes more than 20% of the potential electricity supply. Indeed, this limit is the reason why the UK target for ‘renewable’ electricity generation is 20%: the UK generates hydropower (mostly in Scotland) so wind power will not reach the 20% limit if the target is met.

    But the problem was first realised in California although California uses much less wind power than 20% of its grid supply. Some 13,000 wind turbines produce more than one percent of California’s electricity. (This is about half as much electricity as is produced by one nuclear power plant.) The windfarms were constructed instead of thermal power stations (or instead of re-opening mothballed Californian nuclear power stations), and excess capacity in adjacent States was used to overcome the need for the windfarms to have backup. But California obtained a power crisis when that excess capacity was consumed by the adjacent States. Hence, California has inadequate spare capacity for the needed additional risk management associated with its small use of wind power. This resulted in California needing to continuously apply scheduled voltage reductions (known as ‘brown outs’) around the State as an alternative method to manage the risk of power cuts from supply failures.

    Texas has increased its use of windpower to the degree that, as Mike Smith reports, it has also had to resort to using ‘brownouts’ at times of unscheduled power outages.

    Richard

  57. Regarding “Kristoffer Haldrup says:
    February 2, 2011 at 10:36 pm
    Coming from a country, Denmark, where 20%+ of the generating capacity is based on windmills and where blackouts are Exceptionally rare, this and related “wind power” posts were a hoot to read and quite in line with my impression of the author&readership of WUWT in general, exceptions noted:)”

    Kristoffer, it is never a good idea to throw out blanket insults, however I find a little research on your claims of Danish sucess like accuracy and truth.

    Especially controversial are the subsidies made to Danish wind power and problems connected with grid management. It’s pretty universally accepted among wind specialists that keeping the transmission system running smoothly gets tougher as wind power’s share grows.

    In 1998, Norway commissioned a study of wind power in Denmark and concluded that it has “serious environmental effects, insufficient production, and high production costs.”

    Denmark (population 5.3 million) has over 6,000 turbines that produced electricity equal to 19% of what the country used in 2002. Yet no conventional power plant has been shut down. Because of the intermittency and variability of the wind, conventional power plants must be kept running at full capacity to meet the actual demand for electricity. Most cannot simply be turned on and off as the wind dies and rises, and the quick ramping up and down of those that can be would actually increase their output of pollution and carbon dioxide (the primary “greenhouse” gas). So when the wind is blowing just right for the turbines, the power they generate is usually a surplus and sold to other countries at an extremely discounted price, or the turbines are simply shut off.

    A writer in The Utilities Journal (David J. White, “Danish Wind: Too Good To Be True?,” July 2004) found that 84% of western Denmark’s wind-generated electricity was exported (at a revenue loss) in 2003, i.e., Denmark’s glut of wind towers provided only 3.3% of the nation’s electricity. According to The Wall Street Journal Europe, the Copenhagen newspaper Politiken reported that wind actually met only 1.7% of Denmark’s total demand in 1999. (Besides the amount exported, this low figure may also reflect the actual net contribution. The large amount of electricity used by the turbines themselves is typically not accounted for in the usually cited output figures. Click here for information about electricity use in wind turbines.) In Weekendavisen (Nov. 4, 2005), Frede Vestergaard reported that Denmark as a whole exported 70.3% of its wind production in 2004.

    Denmark is just dependent enough on wind power that when the wind is not blowing right they must import electricity. In 2000 they imported more electricity than they exported. And added to the Danish electric bill are the subsidies that support the private companies building the wind towers. Danish electricity costs for the consumer are the highest in Europe. [Click here for a detailed and well referenced examination by Vic Mason.] http://www.wind-watch.org/documents/wind-power-in-denmark/

  58. This article is unadulterated fear mongering. As well as including made up nonsense about wind power failing, when what actually happened was “One coal-powered plant had a frozen pile of coal and another had frozen pipes”, it also says:-

    “Of course, Great Britain has experienced wind power failures (and rolling blackouts) during cold weather due to light winds.”

    This is not true. There have not been rolling blackouts in the UK because it is not windy. The linked article, written by a breathless journalist trying to shift newspapers, says what might happen in the future.

  59. So Kristoff, your Danish electric costs, just like electric costs in Texas, are a large drain on your economy. Wind power is a failure without large tax support and it is not clean or enviromentaly friendly.

  60. “Mike Borgelt says:
    February 3, 2011 at 1:41 am
    Smug Danish git.”

    The Danes are not the only ones.
    When some years ago there was a power failure in the NE-USA, people in Swiss newspapers were mouthing off about US incompetence. Then there was a power failure in northern Italy because a tree fell onto an important transmission line in Switzerland, and “ruck-zuck-zack-zack” the above discussion disappeared from the blogs.

  61. When most needed it gives up the ghost. That is unreliable power of the worst kind.
    Will governments learn? No they will install more turbines thinking that some will work some of the time.
    Oh for the reliability of coal, oil and nuclear!

  62. I can confirm the the effects of power cuts and grid overloads due to wind power.
    Where I live in Germany, the biggest test center of wind mill technology in Germany according to this web site: http://www.energystate.de/content2.php?lang=en&id=&subid=12
    an ever growing number of wind mills is out of order due to technical problems with the gear boxes (20 to 30%)
    First you see a brown colored oil slick covering the under site of the generator dome which grows slowly due to increased oil loss. These mills obviously don’t carry a sensor that shuts the wind mill down before any damage due to oil losses occurs. A few days later the wind mill is down and often it takes weeks before repair crews show up. They must be very busy or it must take that long for parts to arrive. Mind you these are practically new wind mills, not older than 3-5 years.
    There are also these moments when the odd wind mill is constantly shifting it’s rotor head to pick up the wind but fails to do so for many hours on a role.
    This must be due to electronics or sensor problems responsible for keeping the rotor into the wind. The wind mills are also completely down for days on record (10 days on row is no exception) when a high pressure are takes a hold of the region and the wind lies down. These are hot or cold periods when electric power is needed the most. Maintenance obviously is a constant requirement to keep them running and I am really having problems to accept wind power as a reliable source for electricity from what I observe here.

    Besides that, since the wind mills are operational and connected to the grid we have experienced a hike in power cuts from once in five years to 6 times a year and also power spikes, a real killer for electronics and electric equipment from fridges to washing machines.
    I have lost the content of the fridge several times and can no longer leave it unattended when I travel for a few weeks which simply is an annoying inconvenience.

    The same goes for the phone, fax and computer server network that is in need of a manual reboot when the power comes back to the grid after a power cut.
    Very, very annoying.

    I really don’t understand the Government policies in Europe to push for this I.M.O. failed technology pushing the reliability of our grid to the level of a third world country.

  63. When the power went out here in Houston, the only light I had was my computer monitor, and the only music was the beeping of my UPS. So I went to bed. With an extra comforter, since the furnace wasn’t running and it was below freezing outside.

    A glimpse of the future unless we make some changes in D.C.

    The transistor radio said the problem was the natural gas pressure was way down because of the cold, and some pipes burst at a couple of the coal fired plants. Give me nukes.

  64. I know of two CCGT stations in the UK that were unable to run during the cold spells in December, due to freezing of instrumentation.

    At this time, the wind turbines I also monitor were stationary for the vast majority of this period.

    The sooner the UK wakes up to the winters to come, and stops toeing the CAGW line the better.

  65. John Marshall says:
    February 3, 2011 at 2:42 am
    When most needed it gives up the ghost. That is unreliable power of the worst kind.
    Will governments learn? No they will install more turbines thinking that some will work some of the time.
    Oh for the reliability of coal, oil and nuclear!

    ———————————

    It was the coal and gas that failed, not the wind farms:

    http://fuelfix.com/blog/2011/02/02/whats-behind-the-blackouts-power-plants-not-designed-for-cold-weather/

    When will governements learn not to invest in coal and gas?!?!

    ;-)

  66. Galvanize says:
    February 3, 2011 at 3:22 am
    I know of two CCGT stations in the UK that were unable to run during the cold spells in December, due to freezing of instrumentation.

    At this time, the wind turbines I also monitor were stationary for the vast majority of this period.

    The sooner the UK wakes up to the winters to come, and stops toeing the CAGW line the better.

    ———————

    The only real alternative is nuclear, but people protest when you suggest bulding a nuclear power plant in their back garden.

  67. @April E. Coggins who sai”:

    I read that story. What I didn’t understand (give me the dunce hat award) but doesn’t it require more energy to cool Texas when it’s hot vs. energy when it’s cold?

    One report mentioned that quite a few power plants were off line for periodic maintenance. The suggestion was that normal winters need less power than normal summers and there was less available to begin with. A total of 50 power plants were affected by the cold weather, including one brand new coal-fired plant, because they “failed to take proper precautions.”

    The cold front was accompanied by several days of unusually high winds. If the windmills suffered, it wasn’t for lack of wind.

  68. R. de Haan says:

    I really don’t understand the Government policies in Europe to push for this I.M.O. failed technology pushing the reliability of our grid to the level of a third world country.

    Well, I am living in Navarre, the first in Europe to be self-sufficient in renewable energy, (or so they say) and I cannot remember when was the last time we had a blackout at home.

    From

    Navarre, Europe’s sixth largest producer of wind power, currently sustains approximately 70 percent of its electricity needs from renewable energy sources, wind farms being used most extensively, and has a 900-megawatt capacity of installed wind power.

    (for a population of 500.000 people, I must say)

    So, 70 % of our electricity comes from renewable energy sources, mostly wind power, and yet, no blackouts. The blackout problems other places have may have other causes and can be prevented with better management.

    And, by the way, we are the world largest producers of VolksWagen Polo cars, or we were last time I checked.

  69. guys, just because you want it to be true does not make it true, this article is just dead wrong about, well, everything, and Mike Smith shows a true lack of understanding in his comments.

  70. I’ve said before and I’ll say it again. Once we get rid of all this CAGW madness we should start on getting rid of political bloody correctness.

  71. @Mike
    Yes, as I write, wind is by no means an effective energy solution on its own, we agree perfectly on that. But it is demonstrably effective as part of the cocktail, nevertheless, and I would not call it “useless” in any sense of the word…but then, nor would I resort to name calling ;)

    @David
    Thanks for thoughtful comments, which again serve to underscore that it there is not any cause to say that wind power alone is The next Big Thing, but nor is there any reason at all not to consider it as part of our future energy supply. In this context, the subsidies have been necessary to develop the technology to its present level and beyond, a development that would not have taken place had only “market forces” been allowed to determine the future of this particular technology 25 years ago. Incidentally, the high Danish electricity costs are only to a small extent due to wind in the mix, but rather to some pretty fierce taxation/VAT issues. -The really heavy energy users in the industrial sector are exempt from many of these, in order not to hamper their competitiveness on an international level. This makes it less of a drain on the economy, and basically just one more tax:)

  72. Lets hope all those freezing windmills have effective de-icing strategies…

    Precipitation, atmospheric and in-cloud icing affect wind turbine operation in various ways, including measurement and control errors, power losses, mechanical and electrical failures and safety hazard. Anti-icing and de-icing strategies are used to minimize these effects. Many active and passive methods are in development but few are available on the market. Active heating of blades is the most tested, used and reliable way to prevent icing effects.

    http://www.sciencedirect.com/science?_ob=ArticleURL&_udi=B6V86-4Y5GXTN-2&_user=10&_coverDate=01%2F31%2F2011&_rdoc=1&_fmt=high&_orig=search&_origin=search&_sort=d&_docanchor=&view=c&_searchStrId=1629087646&_rerunOrigin=google&_acct=C000050221&_version=1&_urlVersion=0&_userid=10&md5=c7e2814b0cd089db1f76ceeaeac30c94&searchtype=a

    And best not to think about the power drain too much on those cold, clear, windless days….

    The electro-thermal de-icer is used in some sites, such as Canada’s Yukon and Finland’s Pori and Olostrunturi (Laakso et al., 2003). The system can be easily installed on existing blades. The significant energy consumption is its main drawback. In Pori, the system was used for public safety reasons and the power consumption was 1% of annual production

    http://www.isope.org/publications/journals/ijope-17-3/abst-17-3-p182-RF-37-Mayer.pdf

  73. Brad says at February 3, 2011 at 4:09 am :

    “guys, just because you want it to be true does not make it true, this article is just dead wrong about, well, everything, and Mike Smith shows a true lack of understanding in his comments.”

    Spoken like a true believer. Evidence-free, opinion total, and denial absolute.

    Richard

  74. Falling shards of ice pose an obvious risk to people, buildings and vehicles if the turbines are close to habitations or roads. In the UK several instances of this kind were reported last winter, the ice sometimes landing on homes and in gardens in chunks of up to 2ft. Residents were wary of venturing out until the turbines were switched off.

    http://social.windenergyupdate.com/industry-insight/blade-ice-detection-and-removal-technology-accelerates-europe

  75. Green energy:
    Funded by carbon tax, paid to banks-world bank/IMF.
    World bank lends money for investment in green technology.
    Developing country borrows huge sums of money, pays green tech industry owned by banks and energy companies, builds green plants.
    Green plants so innefficient that they consume more net energy than fossile plant in manufacturing and maintanence.
    Developing country fails to pay mortage of huge loan.
    World bank writes off loans, in return developing country surrenders plants and natural rescources to banks and energy companies.

    Have we seen this before?
    This is why Copenhagen failed, dev. countries are getting wise to the scheme.

    Oh, did I mention the new market of trading nothing, ie carbon offsets?
    A percent or so in courtage of trillions of dollars worth of emperors clothes makes for huge profits.

    It is a scam, it is enron all over, Madoff, federal reserve this is outrageous.

  76. Urederra says:
    February 3, 2011 at 3:53 am

    http://www.wind-watch.org/documents/wp-content/uploads/mason-windpowerindenmark-2008.pdf

    You really need to actually read this link, your renewable and wind power in all probability has issues similar to Denmark, which only works due to the very flexible hydro from Norway and Nuclear and coal back up (hydro and nuclear are not an option in most places, heavy taxes as Kristoffer Haldrup almost admits to, BTW Kristoffer, where I come from we call that a misallocation of resources) Wind is NOT a clean, cheap, or efficient option even in the best of circumstances like Denmark where the high cost IS due to the extensive wind production and the VAT tax is necessary to pay for it.

    Brad this article was unfortunately poorly done, as the cause of the issue in Texas was not researched. However the message in the article and most comments are about the overall issue of wind power. Texas does have those problems and if the resources had instead gone into clean coal or third and fourth generation nuclear along with a policy to support it and make it less expensive (easily doable) this would not have been an issue.

  77. >”combined with generation that’s been compromised and is producing less than expected”

    WRONGO! If Texas had half a brain they would have completely expected this to happen, in fact its’ guaranteed.

  78. Richard-

    Please take the time to read the rest of my posts, evidence filled and actually correct. Nothing like knowledge.

    Also, nat gas gen is the method of choice for peaking neeeds like Texas had – blame the infrastructure and planning where the blame belongs.

    Show me where the wind was too low to generate, it was not, shopw me where anyone in power and with knowledge blamed wind – they did not because this is simply wrong.

  79. Brad says:
    February 2, 2011 at 8:43 pm
    More details on exactl;y which power PLANTS failed:

    http://www.dentonrc.com/sharedcontent/dws/drc/localnews/stories/DRC_Blackouts_0203.117a7ba23.html

    Haven’t scrolled through the comments, so this may have been addressed. Those two plants did indeed fail, but they only account for ~2600 of the ~7000 MW failing. It was the wind. It dropped off around 3 pm the day before, and they didn’t spin up the reserves. If the reserves were running, or the wind hadn’t stopped, the system could have dealt with the two plants that went down. As for the unexpected demand, this storm was predicted last week. The politicians only mentioned the two plants that went down, but not the wind failing at the root of it all. Hmmmm….wonder why?

  80. R. de Haan,

    we in Czech republic don’t like much the North German windfarms. Whenever they start generate, there’s a small problem – Germany does not have enough power lines from North, where the energy generation occurs, to South, where it’s needed.
    Y’a know, these lines are sooo unsightly when on the surface and sooo expensive when buried. So what they do is, to load it out of sudden on Czech and/or Polish transfer grid, which has a higher capacity due to the good ole commie times. It happened several times that both countries experienced overload blackout due to this noble and clean wind power peak.
    We tried to stop this by installing some sort of “fuses” on the grid interface to prevent such unloading, but Germans overrode this using EU institutions. So we have to let them do this to our energy balance and what’s really a cherry on the top of all that cream – apparently the Germans don’t have to pay to the other countries’ grid owners or energy producers for losses caused by their sudden wind energy overloads. And it seems that they don’t plan to increase their north-south transfer lines either. Why should they, when the Czechs will do it themselves just for protection of their own grid? ;-)
    So much for the really modern and up-to-date grids in Europe as well as for the spirit of friendly cooperation on renewables…

    Here is a translation of Czech articles about this problem:

    http://tinyurl.com/6l7gtru

    http://tinyurl.com/4mvcrzm

  81. Speaking of energy and the Gulf, we are doing so much wrong. Texans are paying higher costs for power, and the nation is being badly hurt by the ban on drilling and natural gas production, while at the same time we are loaning Brazil and Mexico billions to develop their fossil fuel resources, AWGM= a world gone mad.

    http://thf_media.s3.amazonaws.com/2010/pdf/wm2945.pdf

    Highlights from from the link…
    The President has raised questions about the long-term necessity for drilling.[2] Others would take this argument much further and ban all drilling offshore.[3]

    What we could do…“The Energy Information Administration (EIA) projects that daily petroleum production will rise 18 percent between 2010 and 2035 and that daily production from offshore wells (in the lower 48 states) will rise by over 40 percent.4 EIA also predicts that offshore drilling will supply significant increases in natural gas production. While total natural gas production will rise 16 percent over the same period, offshore production of natural gas will rise 63 percent, at which time it will be nearly a fifth of total domestic production.5

    Peak oil in the gulf, peak and you will find it. …“The reserves of petroleum are projected to rise by 5 billion barrels—even after extracting 57 billion barrels over the period 2010–2035. This happens because improvements in technology and price increases make previously uneconomic deposits economically viable.

    In short, petroleum can be a major energy source for many decades. Consequently an offshore drilling
    ban’s impact on the U.S. would be felt for decades. For example, between now and 2035 an offshore
    drilling ban would:
    • Reduce GDP by $5.5 trillion,
    • Reduce the average consumption expenditures
    for a family of four by $2,381 per year (and
    exceeding $4,000 in 2035),
    • Reduce job growth by more than 1 million jobs
    by 2015 and more than 1.5 million jobs by 2030,
    and
    • Increase the total expenditures for imported oil
    by nearly $737 billion.6

  82. Excellent article, and our strategy of filling the Internet with as much BS as possible seems to be working.. I just hope those stupid “warmers” with all their “critical thinking” and “science” don’t figure us out….

  83. Dave Springer says:
    February 3, 2011 at 1:33 am

    “If nuclear power plants could profitably compete with other suppliers then they would get built and if they can’t compete they won’t get built – it’s just that simple. The market is open, generating plants are privately owned and operated, and if there is profit potential there will be investment capital to build them.”

    That’s the most incredibly naive thing I’ve read all day. The market is not open. Not remotely.

  84. Is that really 7,000 megawatts of continuous reliable generated power or is it the maximum power the system can ever tolerate or maybe the average but not continuous output? Some of you seem to know quite a lot on this subject. (of course if there is no wind, it’s zero)

  85. Part of the Texas problem is a result of the fundamental Texas psyche. They have a mental undercurrent of ‘specialness’ and independence and think that they might at any moment break away and be their own little nation, yet again, if things don’t go their way.
    As a result, the Texas power grid was designed to operate almost independently from the rest of the world and only lately have they begun to have any meaningful grid- ties to neighboring states/nations. This wouldn’t have been a problem (and wasn’t) in neighboring Oklahoma, which had far worse weather conditions than Texas, since OK is tied into the rest of the nation’s grid.

  86. My thanks to everyone for their comments, it has been a valuable education. I can only add one missing element.– no one has mentioned the multiple law suits filed when any plant powered by nuclear energy is proposed.

  87. Bikermailman-

    Read the rest of the posts and reports, it seems the draw on natural gas caused low pressure in the lines to the plants that are supposed to come online to handle peak loads, and because of the low pressure they could not. We could have built 100 more nat gas which it seems the folks on this string wanted, and they would have failed as the delivery infrastructure failed to get the gas to them. We have multiple failure of backups here, but wind is not one of them.

  88. We can all agree that drilling safely is a good idea. but lets both drill AND be safe about it.

    As for Obama he is a big proponent of both clean coal and nuclear (he comes from a top nuke state in Illinois). He also opened alot of new continental shelf to drilling before BP ruined the party through incredibly unsafe practices.

  89. Wind power can cause climate change? Here is the MIT paper from last year on said subject. It seems we continue to march in directions without an appropriate vetting process in place. I wonder of the impact on weather and climate when we have millions of solar panels covering vast areas of land ? Solardesertification?

    http://www.atmos-chem-phys.net/10/2053/2010/acp-10-2053-2010.pdf

    Summary article below

    http://web.mit.edu/newsoffice/2010/climate-wind-0312.html

  90. Rossi and Focardi claim to be building a 1 MW power plant in Miami using just 125 of their E-Cat (Energy Catalyzer) modules (each module contains just 1 gram of powdered nickel and run continuously for 6 months). To supply all of the 7,000 MW power requirements of Texas would require just 875,000 modules yet the cumulative weight of nickel used would be just under 2,000 lbs! Each power plant could be ideally sized and located to meet local demand. There wouldn’t be any combustion products or nuclear waste and consumers would see electricity rates drop to just a fraction (probably one-third) of what they currently pay. And Texas could start ordering these power plants today.

    Then all those vista-destroying, bird-killing, noise-generating, neighbor-hated wind turbines could be removed, and in the process lop off the highest-rated electricity component in their grid. With cheap and reliable base load capacity from E-Cats, Texas would become the energy model of the world and they’d see a resurgent economy as a result of unprecedented low electricity rates. You may think this scenario is far-fetched, but we’ve seen a real far-fetched energy implementation—the one they currently have—and it’s the one that doesn’t work.

    (We had record cold temps here yesterday morning (-21 F), and all the wind turbines just to the east of us were absolutely still—something I’ve noticed when really cold weather sets in.)

  91. Oh yes, anybody bet that the Federal Government would allow Texas to implement E-Cat units considering the recent drilling shutdown in the Gulf? The US Patent Office won’t even consider an invention based on “cold fusion”. Makes one ask the question: Is government the solution or the problem?

  92. I was somewhat shocked when first reading it — energy-rich Texas having brownouts? Not a good thing especially for hospitals, industries, airports, etc). As a former power-plant engineer, I know a fair amount about this. I understand the weather is very cold & Texas is a “warm-season max demand” location, but is this cold-event really unprecedented & not accounted for in long-term demand scenarios? I don’t see evidence of that yet. So was it:

    1. Too much base-load capacity (gas, coal, nuke, etc) out for various reasons?
    2. Too much faith and/or inaccurate assessments of system wind-power capability?

    Offhand, it seems like #2, but hopefully some studies/analyses should come out of this to determine causes. If it is #2, this should be a real red-flag to utilities and customers concerning wind power.

  93. Placing blame on some other entity for our discomfort seems to be a place where common sense needs to be discussed at the individual level. Community service provider systems (public and private) have, at their very core, a huge risk factor. They are vulnerable to multiple large and small disruptions in the delivery of community service, be it groceries, hospital services, garbage pickup, electricity, gas, water, etc. If you do not have individual backup systems installed, you have given tacit approval that you are willing to shoulder the risks of being dependent on these service providers without complaint.

    The more important issue here is an individual one. This is less about what happened to power in Texas than it is about who would survive just fine living under their own power.

  94. I agree that we are overbuilding expensive windpower. But reading the article, I didn’t see anything about wind power causing the blackout. I did see that 7,000 megawatts, including three big coal plants were out; the spokesperson said it was because of prolonged cold.

    Spokespeople are not known for telling the exact truth, they put spin on things if appropriate from the viewpoint of their employer.

    Yet I would like to see some confirmation that wind power was in some way at fault here. Wind power certainly was at fault a couple of years ago, when the state suddenly lost a few thousand megawatts when the wind pretty much stopped.

    But was wind power actually at fault? This blog is only as credible as the science it cites and the accusations it makes!

  95. curmudgy says:
    February 3, 2011 at 12:56 am
    That’s incredibly smart to reinvest in coal and nuclear. The world has an infinite supply of coal and we always can call upon the efficiency of Chernobyl as a prime example of nuclear power at it’s best.
    _________________________________
    More lefty garbage from people who don’t want to understand the truth.

    Chernobyl was a military design (graphite reactor) with no significant containment. It was built to produce plutonium for weapons and had a secondary purpose of generating power. There are no commercial power plants using that design.

    And please tell us, o sage thou art, where the terrible disaster with commercial nuclear power occurred?

  96. Brad says:
    February 3, 2011 at 5:35 am
    We can all agree that drilling safely is a good idea. but lets both drill AND be safe about it. As for Obama he is a big proponent of both clean coal and nuclear (he comes from a top nuke state in Illinois).

    Brad.you comments about Obama are incorrect. Obama has promised that under his plan electricity rates will necessarily skyrocket, and they will, and each and every time he talks about nuclear, it is in some far distance future when it is safe, as if the ghosts of chernobyl are remotely related to todays technology, or even first generation US technology. As to your comment, “Lat time I checked we were discussing Texas, not Ireland” No we are discussing that the wind power problems,
    even in an ideal place like Denmark, our generic to all wind production. You however have failed to respond to any of these criticism and are fixated on the articles mistake of assuming wind power was the problem in this case. By the way your statement that 100 natural gas power generation stations would have all had the same problem is an absurd assertion with no evidence. Please step your game up.

  97. Here on the Solway in Scotland we have winds in the 60mph+ range right now. None of the excrescences that are visible in every quadrant from my window, both on and off shore, are turning.
    Wind it seems, is like Goldilocks porridge.

  98. A sage once said: “Nothing is more shameful than assertion without knowledge.”

    This post was begun in almost complete ignorance of the facts, and should be struck from the archives of WUWT. Atypical and disappointing. Hopefully, mark the mistake with, “Lesson learned.”

  99. Richard,

    You wrote that the UK target for electricity from renewables is 20% by 2020. I believe the actual target is 30% and the 20% applies to reduction in carbon emissions from all sources.

  100. I suggest more solar. Surely west Texas has a lot of sunlight going to waste.

    No seriously, the boom in wind was offset by blocking expansion of coal and other sources. Texas is growing and they shouldn’t depend on an unreliable source to cover increased consumption. When all else fails, blame Bush.

  101. April E. Coggins says:
    February 2, 2011 at 8:40 pm
    “What I didn’t understand (give me the dunce hat award) but doesn’t it require more energy to cool Texas when it’s hot vs. energy when it’s cold?”

    It takes the same amount of energy to heat or cool.
    The difference in more northerly locations we use natural gas or oil for heat.

    In more southerly locations they use heat pumps for heating and cooling.

    How much energy it takes is the difference between comfort zone and outside temperature. At 0 degrees F outside thats about 70 degrees worth of heating where as 105 degrees is just 35 degrees of cooling.

  102. I live here in El Paso and we have two power plants within the city and both were off line yesterday. Yesterday morning it was 8 degrees and it was 1 degree this morning.
    At my house, no power yesterday morning for over an hour and again late last night.
    Lots of homes in El Paso have water pipes freezing and bursting , some water service outages in some parts of the city as well and approx 1200 homes are without natural gas service due to low pressure because of the demand. This morning Texas is purchasing power from New Mexico however as I sit here and type this I wonder when and if the power will go off again as there is no warning, just kaput and that’s it!

  103. Re.ThomasJ says:
    February 3, 2011 at 7:08 am

    Good links. Green jobs cost jobs. Anyone who does not read your links and my earlier links about Denmark, the proclaimed ideal example of wind power, is talking from prejudice. The green thing is not as green as nature’s green, CO2. In fact it is a disaster happening now, yet the predicted disaster of CAGW fails to materialize.

  104. Kum

    China was the number 1 installer of coal last year and last decade. I have my doubts about your wind claim. China, bad as it is in many ways, doesn’t tend to do things that stupid.

    Elsewhere the claim that the problem with wind is distribution and having it wide spread enough flies in the face of widespread systems in Australia and Western North America. If you think you can use wind in Australia to power something in Canada or even in New Zealand regardless of your “grid” than you really need to take a basic course in electricity. Power transmission wastes energy, and the farther and the more you transmit the greater the waste

  105. I guess I’ll add to my previous post that from this experience I thought that i was prepared for this as I have plenty of food, propane fuel and even filled up water containers as soon as the power went off first time. What I have learned from this cold spell is that you can never be too prepared. I’ll be purchasing a small power generator and adding additional supplies to my emergency items very soon. For me, I’m glad this happened at this time because I’ll be better prepared for the next maybe even worse “weather event” soon to occur!

  106. A point of detail – as far as I know, the UK has not so far suffered ‘rolling blackouts’ because the wind did not blow.

    No, that is quite true. Because they did two things, ramped up their conventional power output, but equally or more important, they were able to import from France. Now this was when wind is 2% or so of generation, and it goes totally, as it will most winters and some summers too, and electricity consumption rises dramatically, as it will every cold winter. They were a big chunk short, but covered. The gap is not just losing 2%, the gap is losing 2% when demand rises by 5-10%.

    Now imagine that wind is 20% of supply, As happens every cold winter, it will happen that it simply vanishes. Its off totally, like someone turned a switch. At the same time, everyone in the UK wakes up and decides to boil water for tea, turn on the electric fires to warm up a bit. We now have, if we have not installed total backup, something like a 30% gap. The network falls over.

    The only reason the UK did not have blackouts in December is that wind is such a small part of generation, and because the continent could supply. But when wind is 20% or more, either it will be in addition to conventional which will be able to supply peak demand, or the net will fall over. No question about it, the UK is, because of climate and geography, unsuited for migration to wind power to any much greater extent than now.

    By the way, you can also figure the size of the task. If 3000 turbines will do 2%, but only really 1% with any reliability, and even then you have to be prepared to see them just go away for weeks in the year, figure how many will be needed to get to 20%. 60,000 is the answer. Do you have any idea how many ships, how much concrete, how many people are needed to get the things in offshore? And then to service the things? All winter in the North Sea?

    It is completely insane to even consider it. Whatever anyone says, its not going to happen. Here is an idea. Why don’t we build the backup first, we are going to need it regardless. Then we can start adding the windmills at our leisure….

  107. Dave Springer says:
    February 3, 2011 at 1:33 am
    Texas average electricity rates are 10% below the national average.
    ________________________________________________________

    Could be a true statement, but probably only for ‘all sectors’. See http://www.eia.doe.gov/electricity/epm/table5_6_b.html

    In 2010, the Texas residential power price was still higher ($.01/kWh) than the national average.

    Texas power prices surged well above the national average when it became the leading wind power state from 2005-2007. See http://knxu.com/~pix/100111_cost_per_kwh.jpg (EIA data).

    There are many factors influencing power prices. However, O&M for wind power is significant and the costs are increasing. See http://www.renewableenergyworld.com/rea/partner/first-conferences/news/article/2010/06/true-cost-of-wind-turbine-operations-maintenance.

    Here is a comparison of possible future energy prices and costs (EIA). See http://www.eia.doe.gov/oiaf/aeo/pdf/2016levelized_costs_aeo2010.pdf
    Keep in mind that it is easy to play with levelized costs to make anything look good. EIA is making nuclear power look worse (by using the MIT/U Chicago study that assumes 40 year plant lifetime when 80 years is a better estimate), and they are making wind power look better. Advanced nuclear is shown high by a factor of 2, and I wouldn’t be surprised if wind is shown low by a factor of 2.

  108. To those whom cite Chernobyl as an example of ‘efficient’ nuclear power:

    No. Just no. It was an old style, (deprecated even at that time) design, which had a severe problem with xenon poisoning, insufficient reactor coolant circulation, and had an operator assigned that did everything wrong.

    They used rod tips out of carbon, and dropped the power levels too low, which increased the xenon neutron moderation in-system to the point where the reactor could not produce sufficient power. Rather than closing it down, and recirculating the power with pumps, they pulled the auxiliary (safety) control rods. The power level (eventually) started to go up again, slowly burning through the xenon in the coolant solution. It then started on a runaway reaction. As the rods were reinserted, the carbon tips had less moderation effect than the coolant itself, causing a local criticality event, an explosion in the fuel rods blocking control rod reinsertion.

    In effect, the test involved a reactor with an old design, with a very poor supervisor who did everything wrong (political appointment, expert, but didn’t research the design enough). Ignored advice on minimum power levels before the then-running test, on a reactor that contained severe low-power stability issues.

    Anatoliy Dyatlov turned on the reactor at 200 megawatts, stability required 700 megawatts, and the main coolant pumps was powered off the turbines which were spinnng down. Meanwhile power levels dropped, to 50 megawatts, finally stabilizing around 200 no matter how far they pulled the control rods… so he ordered all the rods to be pulled.

    There is an excellent documentary on Youtube of the reactor disaster, by the Discovery channel. Comparing Chernobyl to a modern design is like comparing the Stanley Steamer to a modern hybrid electric vehicle.

    Combination of bad design, and bad decisions. Hardly a sterling example of what a ‘good’ reactor is.

  109. I wonder how many of those Texans laughed at Californians for their rolling blackouts while Texas companies were charging them 400% of normal for a KWH…

  110. I still hoping someone will find a link to tell us just how much electricity the Texas wind farms produced leading up to and during the blackouts.

  111. Hoser says:
    February 3, 2011 at 6:47 am

    curmudgy says:
    February 3, 2011 at 12:56 am
    That’s incredibly smart to reinvest in coal and nuclear. The world has an infinite supply of coal and we always can call upon the efficiency of Chernobyl as a prime example of nuclear power at it’s best.

    Thank,you, Hoser, exactly right, Chernobyl was a FUBAR from the time it
    went critical. The lack of Containment is the big thing here. no relationship to commercial reactors….

  112. In wind energy-intensive Iowa we had no such problem, though we had a bit more cold. I have not noticed our wind turbines turning less in the cold. In this recent storm I shoveled my driveway to one side, so I wouldn’t have to face that intense cold wind.

    More coal energy plants may not have helped the situation or increased reliability if they were built with the equipment subject to the same freezing conditions but with no more resistance to the cold. I have worked as an engineer in California and Arizona and now Iowa. I have also worked with southern engineering companies on industrial plants in Iowa. The engineers from the south were incredulous at how deep we bury pipes to prevent freezing. “Six feet! Are you sure?” I doubt those new coal power plants would have been any better equipped than the existing ones to withstand cold. They would have been subject to the same cold and seasonal variation and just as likely to be down for maintenance or frozen equipment as the existing ones that failed.

    At least with wind, if one turbine is down for maintenance it’s one of many and no big deal, and it can be brought on line quickly once repaired. If one Coal unit is down for maintenance it’s a major part of your capacity, and it takes most of a day to bring it online once its fixed.

    More natural gas plants would have been subject to the same existing natural gas distribution system, and likely made it worse.

    Wind is not a magic elixir, but it is part of the mix. Coal, natural gas, and nuclear are also not magic elixirs, but they are all also part of the mix.

  113. To Mike Smith, who said:

    February 2, 2011 at 9:21 pm
    Anthony,
    Thank you…that is EXACTLY what I was trying to say. If the money had been spent on conventional power plants, nuclear or coal, there would be power tonight. But, because of the calm winds, there isn’t any output from the wind turbines.
    Mike

    —————

    Mike, this is an assertion which goes beyond the facts currently at hand. It was the conventional plants that went down, no? Why is it that if there were more conventional plants, they would be operating, when the conventional plants currently built were shut down by a combination of excess cold and excess demand?

    You can make a generalization that is accurate: wind power is intermittent and might not blow when needed, and that there has been at least one large blackout in TX as a result of so much wind. You can say that if there is more such power, there might be more such outages, caused by a sudden, widespread reduction in winds. That would be accurate, but it wouldn’t describe what happened in this case.

    This particular blackout, caused by conventional generation being knocked off line, was not the fault of TX wind generators. Nor can you demonstrate that if there were more conventional generation, they same thing wouldn’t have happened to them.

    There is a bottom line: conventional generators failed in this case.

    There are good arguments to be made against too much wind power. Make them. Don’t make them up.

  114. The Wind Energy Association is actually trying to take credit for “solving” the problem:

    American Wind Energy Association – Background on Texas Blackouts
    February 03, 2011

    Wind power played a major role in keeping the blackouts from becoming more severe. Between 5 and 7 A.M. this morning (the peak of the electricity shortage) wind turbines was providing between 3,500 and 4,000 MW,

    Many parts of the Texas experienced rolling blackouts, coinciding with unusually cold temperatures across many parts of the state. Millions of customers statewide appear to have been affected. Here are the facts as they are currently understood:

    Wind energy played a major role in keeping the blackouts from becoming more severe. Between 5 and 7 A.M. this morning (the peak of the electricity shortage) wind farm power was providing between 3,500 and 4,000 MW, roughly the amount it had been forecast and scheduled to provide. That is about 7% of the state’s total electricity demand at that time, or enough for about 3 million average homes.

    Cold and icy conditions caused unexpected equipment failures at power plants, taking up to 50 fossil-fired power plants totaling 7,000 MW of capacity offline.

    The cold temperatures caused electric heating demand to exceed the demand expected for this time of year. Many fossil and nuclear power plants take planned outages during non-summer months for maintenance, since electric demand is usually lower during these periods than in the summer.

    The cold temperatures led to very high demand for natural gas for heating purposes, which may have strained the ability of the natural gas pipeline and distribution system to meet both these heating needs and the need to supply natural gas power plants (Texas obtains about half of its electricity by burning natural gas, and gas power plants account for about 70% of the state’s generating capacity).

    “While we are still learning about what happened today, this weather event clearly demonstrates the importance of developing and maintaining a diverse energy portfolio that is not overly dependent on any one energy source,” said Michael Goggin, Manager of Transmission Policy, American Wind Energy Association. “This experience shows just how valuable a clean, affordable and homegrown energy source like wind can be in contributing to a reliable electric system.”

    But I note with interest that the areas of TX that have wind turbines are more than 400 miles from the areas suffering blackouts (and electric power – not just voltage! – is used up in useless power line resistance losses when transmitted long distances) and have very low wind speeds. Wind speeds under 15 mph don’t generate usable power.

    So I seriously doubt the Wind Energy claims.

    3000 Megawatts generated? Maybe that many was theoretically available at the top of windmills already built, if every windmill built could have been producing at its maximum theoretical rate. But how much energy was getting produced that early in the morning? The UK windmills are 8% effective in winter.

  115. Kum Dollison says:
    February 2, 2011 at 11:48 pm
    China was the No 1 installer of Wind last year.
    —————————————————-
    China was the number one installer of electrical generation capacity in the world last year in general, and I’m going out on a limb by guessing that they were not the No. #1 installer of wind “power” as a percentage of newly installed power when China is adding coal plants at a rate of 2 per week.

    http://news.bbc.co.uk/2/hi/6769743.stm

  116. So the windmills blew it, another sputnik moment. But we do have NASA doing Muslim outreach instead of going to the moon where there has been no climate change for four billion years.

  117. Vince Causey:

    At February 3, 2011 at 7:47 am you say to me:

    “You wrote that the UK target for electricity from renewables is 20% by 2020. I believe the actual target is 30% and the 20% applies to reduction in carbon emissions from all sources.”

    Sorry, but I have to disagree.

    The Energy White Paper published by UK Government in May 2003 set out four objectives;
    o Cutting carbon dioxide (CO2) emissions
    o Securing the reliability of energy supplies
    o Promoting competitive markets to help raise the rate of economic growth and
    improve productivity
    o Ensuring every home is adequately and affordably heated

    The White Paper established that a major contribution to the reduction of CO2 emissions was to be expansion of so-called ‘renewable’ sources of power to provide 20% of UK electricity supply. At present, ‘renewables’ provide 4% and windfarms (i.e. local assemblies of wind turbines) provide 0.5% of the total UK electricity supply.

    Hydroelectricity schemes provide most existing ‘renewable’ power sources in the UK (mostly in Scotland), and there are limited opportunities for more hydroelectricity schemes in the UK.

    The expansion would be nearly 30 GWe of power from use of ‘renewables’ and would mostly be provided by construction and use of windfarms.

    The objectives set out in the White Paper were endorsed by the Energy Review published by UK Government in July 2006. The present government inherited that policy when it came to power last year and has not altered it.

    The Energy Review also advocated ‘distributed power systems’, combined heat and
    power (CHP) schemes, increased energy efficiency especially in dwellings,
    investment in research on alternative ‘renewables’ (e.g. wave power and geothermal
    power), and continued use of nuclear power for electricity generation.

    The White Paper and Review did not say that their proposal for increased use of windfarms would require 15000 x 2 MW wind turbine units to be constructed at the rate of 3 per day for the next 15 years. This ambitious project is being supported by large subsidies.

    The renewables objective is being addressed by promotion of windfarms because both the White Paper and Review – wrongly – assert that windfarms reduce emissions from power generation and that windfarms and hydroelectricity are the only technically feasible ‘renewables’ at present. However, the Review advocated investment in research on alternative ‘renewables’ notably wave power and geothermal power.

    Richard

  118. IIRC, the Texas power grid is pretty isolated from the rest of the US. Can this explain some of the blackout problems – that they weren’t able to tap efficiently into excess capacity from neighboring states? Of course, those states were probably running flat-out too due to the cold.

  119. Richard,

    I stand corrected – the figure is indeed 20%. I’m racking my brains to figure out where I got a 30% figure from. Oh well, it’s not as bad as I thought :).

  120. racookpe1978, thank you for your information. I believe your post was the first to supply information about what the wind was actually doing during the stress on the electric grid.
    First, the original article was unfortunately written more on presumptions rather than facts. The themes might be valid, but wisdom was lacking in the decision to assign blame before gathering evidence.
    Second, I did not buy the idea that a rolling blackout occurred because of frozen coal piles and frozen pipes at two coal plants. Two alternate explanations came to my mind: (1) Maybe spokespeople are not mentioning wind because it would be politically incorrect to do so. I am very aware of the pressure not to speak evil of wind in the electric industry (at least in public). But a more likely explanation: (2) The industry was blaming the these two coal plants to deflect blame from system operators – because they certainly should have been able to handle the failure of two coal plants (via spinning reserves). But, now it is reported that 50 fossil-fuel plants had problems. That degree of widespread problems probably exceeded the old electric standard of 15% excess capacity and preparations for triple contingency.

    Third, the reliability issue of wind is still a valid discussion point. I do not know if we can accept the Wind lobby’s pronouncement that wind was contributing 3500 to 4000 MW; however, even that figure means that wind was operating at 50% of its rated capacity. If you have a crisis, you would like an operating generating source to generate more than at 50%. The construction wind plants required huge investment dollars that were not available for construction of plants that would have been available at closer to 100%. As system engineers know, for every 10 MW of wind generation installed, you need 5 to 10 MW of back-up capacity. We are not talking about an inconsequential amount of dollars.

  121. Quick update: Texas has over 10,000 MW of wind capacity — not the 7113 reported in the article which was a 2008 figure. So if we accept the wind lobby’s numbers, wind was operating at 35% of rated capacity. In other words, over 6500 MW of rated wind capacity was not available during the crisis.

  122. Regardless of what all of you posters have said and regardless of how light or hard the wind was blowing in West Texas, the fact remains that we have far less generation capacity than we should, for some of the same reasons Britain has the generation capacity problems it is beginning to experience: a lack of new power plants of all types (coal, gas, and nuclear), an irrational fear of nuclear energy, ridiculous government environmental regulations that make it harder to build new plants, and a Federal government with an irrational policy regarding air quality and “renewable” energy that makes it nearly impossible to maintain viable economic activity, in the name of some ideology of “pristine” nature.

    The fact also is that when the winds blow very hard, the turbines can malfunction and don’t work properly, affecting their capacity (remember all the posts by Anthony that have illustrated that?). I haven’t seen wind speeds in West Texas in those areas where the turbines are, but I think the point Mike Smith makes is a valid one.

    Great job as always, Anthony.

  123. Graphical plot of power consumption under ERCOT’s supervision for the last five days here in Texas:

    Data series begins 1-29-2011 and extends through 2-03-2011 1300 CST (Thursday)

    Notes:
    1) The cold front made it’s way through the northern part of the state 2-01-2011 in the AM accompanied by multiple forms of precip
    2) The rolling blackouts started somewhere around 2 or 3 AM on 2-02-2011 the next day when overnight temperatures in North Central Texas reached 12 deg F.

    .

  124. Kum Dollison says:
    February 2, 2011 at 11:48 pm

    “China was the No 1 installer of Wind last year.”

    People love to gush about ‘green’ China. This puts that into slightly outdated perspective (they have recently announced plans for an even more rapid ramp up in nuclear power by 2020):

    “Mainland China has 13 nuclear power reactors in operation, 25 under construction, and more about to start construction soon.

    Additional reactors are planned, including some of the world’s most advanced, to give more than a tenfold increase in nuclear capacity to 80 GWe by 2020, 200 GWe by 2030, and 400 GWe by 2050…

    Most of mainland China’s electricity is produced from fossil fuels (80% from coal, 2% from oil, 1% from gas in 2006) and hydropower (15%). Two large hydro projects are recent additions: Three Gorges of 18.2 GWe and Yellow River of 15.8 GWe. Rapid growth in demand has given rise to power shortages, and the reliance on fossil fuels has led to much air pollution. The economic loss due to pollution is put by the World Bank at almost 6% of GDP.1 In 2009 power shortages were most acute in central provinces, particularly Hubei, and in December the Central China Grid Co. posted a peak load of 94.6 GW.

    Domestic electricity production in 2009 was 3643 billion kWh, 6.0% higher than the 3,450 billion kWh in 2008, which was 5.8% more than in 2007 (3,260 billion kWh) and it is expected to rise to 3,810 billion kWh in 2010. Installed capacity had grown by the end of 2009 to 874 GWe, up 10.2% on the previous year’s 793 GWe, which was 11% above the previous year’s 713 GWe.2 Capacity growth is expected to slow, reaching about 1600 GWe in 2020. At the end of 2007, there was reported to be 145 GWe of hydro capacity, 554 GWe fossil fuel, 9 GWe nuclear and 4 GWe wind, total 713 GWe. In 2008, the country added 20.1 GWe of hydro capacity, 65.8 GWe coal-fired capacity, and 4.7 GWe wind.”

    http://www.world-nuclear.org/info/inf63.html

    Here is what China actually ‘promised’ at Cancun:

    “The Chinese government last year announced its mitigation actions, aiming at reducing carbon dioxide emissions per unit of gross domestic product by 40 to 45 percent from 2005 levels by 2020.

    “Achieving these targets will require tremendous long-term efforts,” Xie said. “China will adopt comprehensive policies to slow down the speed of emission growth, and strive to reach emission peak as soon as possible.”

    http://europe.chinadaily.com.cn/business/2010-12/10/content_11834746.htm

    So, they will reduce emissions by almost half per unit of GDP…. BUT they hope to increase GDP by about 10% annually.

    Thus they will “slow down the speed of emission growth, and strive to reach emission peak as soon as possible.”

    As soon as possible. Now that’s a ‘promise’ with plenty of wiggle room, to put it mildly.

    But China is doing the smart thing overall. That is, developing all sources of energy. And hopefully all the new coal-fired plants they are building will be as clean “as possible” with the best current technology.

  125. Apparently although Texas’s football superdome wasn’t effected by the blackouts, Critical Infrastructure to deliver propane to Northern New Mexico was shut down.

    In Taos NM, half the grocery stores are closed, many homes have no heat (last night’s low was -20f !), and the nearby town of Questa has declared a state of emergency and set up a shelter.

  126. Is this a discussion on the pro’s and con’s of wind energy or a discussion on the “rolling blackouts” that occurred and the role ERCOT played? Those are two completely different topics. Stop making your politically motivated “guesses” about issues you are not informed on. You really look dumb when the truth comes out. Wind played absolutely NO ROLE in the blackouts!

  127. ERCOT, the Texas grid operator calculated a capacity value of 8% for Texas wind power generation. This is because much of the time when the wind is blowing the power can not be taken due to low demand. And of course too often when it is needed the wind is not blowing. Therefore 10,000 MW is the equivalent of 800 MW of comparable fossil fuel generation.

  128. To Mike Smith (12:35):

    My point is that it was conventional generation that went down. How does wind become the problem? I assume you are criticizing wind because it is intermittent and didn’t provide the full capacity backup that conventional generation would do under normal circumstances. But circumstances weren’t normal, and we had, apparently, 50 conventional plants inoperable. Bottom line: THIS time, wind wasn’t the cause of the blackouts.

    I’m not a fan of wind. I just don’t want this blog to get a reputation for placing the blame where it isn’t. It makes the blog lose credibility to disinterested observers. There are enough problems with wind — high costs, greater chance of bringing the grid down the more wind capacity we get, environmental and visual blight issues — that we don’t have to blame wind the one time that the coal and natural gas plants aren’t available.

    Also, it seems that there are two people named John on this blog today. I am not the John at 12:59. But I am the John at 9:09 and at 6:40.

  129. I live near some of the newest and largest windfarms built in south Texas near Sinton. The farmers and ranchers are tickled pink to have the revenue from the leases! What they don’t understand is why they let less than 35% of the energy generated by the turbines enter the grid on any given day. There is no shortage of wind energy production. It is the lack of energy production between the ears of the average person walking this planet that is at critical mass and creating rolling mental blackouts.

    I was born and lived in the Panhandle of Texas for 45 years. In Alaska when someone says, “It’s 20 degrees outside!” The response is, “Yeah, but did you see Amarillo’s temperature today?” The Teaxs Panhandle has been colder than a witch’s chi-chi since before there were witches and none of this shit happened. Remember when they would make us climb under our desks for “nuklar” bombs and tornadoes? Same shit, different boogey man; old man winter and global warming. Doesn’t that just sound fucking dumb to you?

  130. Lots of confusion. The rolling blackouts some of us experienced in the ERCOT grid have not been fully explained by officials. We have heard that a BRAND NEW coal fired plant owned by Luminant, froze up. Who knows? Plausible?

    Then our all-knowing crew said that the Luminant plant failure triggered an unbelievable sequence of 49 additional plant failures. That would mean 50 of the 550 plants in the ERCOT grid failed! Again, who knows? We simultaneously experienced low nat gas pressures from ATMOS in North Texas and some of those 49 were nat gas plants.

    And get this, the geniuses at ERCOT instructed ONCOR (the distributor, we are deregulated) to cut off feeders on a random basis, but excepted certain areas like the hotels where the Superbowl teams and fans were staying. They cut off a HOSPITAL and electric rail service but the beer guzzlers were left with uninterrupted power!

    I seriously doubt that windmills west of Abilene had ANYTHING to do with this fiasco.

  131. Anthony and Mike,

    I feel obliged to ask for a full correction or retraction to this article for the following reasons:

    1. Wind energy output was extremely high throughout the period when ERCOT implemented rolling blackouts and leading up to that period, making your claims that wind was in any way a cause of this event entirely false. ERCOT data shows wind output blasting along at over 4,000 MW Tuesday night and early Wednesday morning. During the 5-7 AM window Wednesday morning, when ERCOT was forced to implement rolling blackouts, wind output was cruising along at between 3,600 MW and 3,900 MW. Throughout that time period, wind speeds on the ground were also very high across the parts of the state with the bulk of the installed wind capacity, with many areas under high wind warnings. A major problem with your article is that you are confusingly talking about the wind speeds and other conditions on Wednesday night, which has nothing to do with what was happening 12+ hours earlier when the blackouts actually happened.

    2. As of mid-day yesterday, 8 hours before your post, it had already been widely reported that the blackouts were caused by roughly 50 fossil-fueled power plants totaling 7,000 MW of capacity tripping offline due to mechanical failures caused by the cold, including two coal power plants with 2,700 MW of capacity that were specifically identified in midday public statements by the Lt. Gov. Dewhurst. Why you proceeded to blame wind for the event many hours after directly contradictory evidence was broadly reported is an open question.

    3. Great Britain and Minnesota have never experienced blackouts due to wind energy, contrary to your statement in the second to the last paragraph. I urge you to read the articles that you linked to, as they do not say anything remotely close to what you claim they do.

    4. At the beginning of your article, you at least make clear that your attacks on wind energy are entirely based on conjecture: “The article didn’t give a clue as to what generating capability failed, but I can make a pretty good guess: Wind energy.” However, by the end, you somehow felt comfortable making sweeping statements like “Now, because of relying so much on wind power, the state is suffering blackouts.” Now that your conjectures have proven entirely false, you owe it your readers, and your credibility, to do the honorable thing and retract the article.

    I hope you understand the need to issue a full retraction to stop the confusion this post has generated before it spreads further.

    Thanks,
    Michael Goggin
    American Wind Energy Association

  132. The OP was spot on. Wind farms are a boondoggle waste of Federal monies. Who cares if TX paid for them. It’s 19th century feel-good gaia-love-fest crap. Five Nuke plants would give us steady and cheap, say 5cent/kw power. Oh… but that’s not politically correct!!! So we pay more.

    Only the stadium in Arlington was exempt from the rolling blackouts, not the hotels and crap the other poster from TX mentioned. Obviously, if they’d blacked out the stadium during MEDIA-DAY at the staduim, it would have had profound implications in the sports media. I can accept they were exempted but so should the hospital districts. This whole thing should be looked into and we Texans deserve a better response next time… and more nuke plants. I hope that comes from this.

    Also, the Federal Government needs to allow for reprocessing of nuke fuel like the rest of the world does… that would buy us many years of power without a waste disposal issue. Thank you Jimmy Carter.

  133. Wind generation irks a lot of people because the entire premise is built on AGW and we need to reduce CO2 and the fact that giant corps., like GE, are rent-seekers and practicing “crony capitalism. The need for wind was approached entirely on a political and ideological viewpoint, not on one of reliability, cost, and other sane market factors. Kinda the same as electric cars.

    When subsidies are cut and warranties expire, then there will be 1000’s of eyesores all over the country in less than 20 years. There is a history of moth-balled windfarms. Just like the latest fad, people eventually wake-up and go on to bigger and better things. Whose going to pay to dismantle these monstrosities?

  134. A few questions for Michael Goggin,

    1) What is the capacity of Texas Wind?

    2) How much was actually produced during the time in question?

    3) How much did those turbines cost?

    4) How many coal plants and what MW could have been available if the answer to #3 was spent on coal power plants?

  135. I live in Texas and survived “The Great Rolling Blackout of 2011.”
    Actually, I got off work for the day and got to take it easy for a change.
    It’s become quite clear to us Texans that the wind farms had nothing to do with the power outages. It was none other than, OMG, fossil fuel powered plants! They failed. Plain and simple.
    Mike Smith took a chance, blaming our wind turbines, and he missed the mark in epic fashion. Mike, dude, that was stupid. I’m sure you thought it was an educated guess and that the tea baggers would rally around you and cheer, but instead the AWEA called you the f*ck out on your misinformation.
    Cross your fingers, tonight may be our only chance of snow this winter.
    Have a great day!

  136. Michael Goggin: ” Great Britain and Minnesota have never experienced blackouts due to wind energy, contrary to your statement in the second to the last paragraph.”

    But that won’t be true for long.

    “Figures released in early January showed that as temperatures plunged to well below freezing and electric power demand soared, electricity production at Britain’s 3,100+ wind turbines fell from an average of 8.6 percent of Britain’s electricity mix to just 1.8 percent. Instead of serving up to 3 million homes, wind farms were serving just 30,000 homes, a mere one-hundredth of normal capacity. On the evening of December 20 Britain’s average temperature fell to minus 5.6 celsius. At 6.30 that evening, the nation’s wind farms, which claim a generating capacity of 5.2 GW of electricity, were actually generating a piffling 40 MW, the equivalent of 20 turbines working at full capacity.

    When British wind farms were reportedly producing “practically no electricity” over a similar period in 2010 the British Government was forced to ask 95 major industrial consumers to turn off their gas pipelines.”

    http://www.energytribune.com/articles.cfm/6310/Britains-Wind-Farms-are-No-Spin-Zones-When-Cold-Hits

  137. That’s the problem with wind power. You need two power plants: the wind facility primary and nearly a 100% backup fossil/nuclear secondary. Germany’s grid operator E. ON Netz has stated that by 2020 they will need 96% of their wind turbines backed-up by reliable coal fired power plants.

  138. Several morons have gotten on here and tried to portray this as being anything but caused by wind. It is entirely caused by wind. Windspeeds were low and baseload power plant construction has been lagging because morons in government have been pushing wind forgetting that for every new megawatt of wind, there has to also be a new megawatt of coal, gas, or nuclear built.

  139. Here in Tucson, we have ran out of natural gas. People are being moved into shelters and told that gas will not resume untill next Tuesday. We expect another deep freeze to possibly 15 degrees tonight.

  140. @Kristoffer Haldrup

    The US most certainly does have an interconnected modern electricity distribution system, just not in TX, which insists on being on its own with minimal interconnection. I would say there are no countries in Europe, zero, with a more modern or more interconnected system than the US.

  141. @Michael Goggin

    As a taxpayer and a ratepayer, I’m offended that I’m having to pay the subsidies that pay your salary.

  142. How would you like to be a conventional power plant that has to ramp up and down to tolerate the lack of production by wind energy. Think it might cause that plant problems? When will people get sick of windgate and the huge taxscam that it is? Wind power has 0 capacity value. It is worthless junk. Can we move on to REAL power that is American made? WAKE UP PEOPLE!

  143. Again, this had NOTHING to do with wind power. A coal fired plant failed. Nat gas plants failed because of a shortage of nat gas in the ATMOS system. ATMOS has enough capacity to supply those plants in the summer for topping off purposes. It is WINTER, ergo an insufficient supply for the nat gas plants and nat gas consumption of everyone else.

    Was this a perfect storm, maybe. Could ERCOT and ONCOR have done a better job of priortizing the feeders subject to power cuts? Bet the Lt. Gov. (the Gov. in Texas has almost no political power – vestige of actions of Gov. Ma Ferguson in the depression) jumps on somebody about this.

  144. Kristoffer Haldrup says:
    February 2, 2011 at 10:36 pm

    I suggest you find out where all your electricity comes from when the wind isn’t blowing (ie clear cold winter days – we get a lot of those in your neck of the woods)

    Hint – it comes from a country next door who do NUCLEAR power. Please ask your local representative and wind farm managers exactly how many new windmills are planned – and why

    The laugh is wind powered countries being totally reliant on those nasty nukes next door. (Bit like Holland which won;t do nukes – but buys a lot of electricity form France – 80% nuke…)

    Wind Power can not do base load.
    Wind power can not be relied on to supply peak load top up – because the wind doesn’t always blow (or blows to strongly).
    Wind power looks pretty (or not) and is pretty useless at providing a DEPENDABLE SOURCE OF ELECTRICITY. I presume you do like the light to come on when you turn it on ?

  145. It has been in the last 7 or 8 years that Texas embarked on building around 12 GW (12 plants, more or less) of new coal baseload generation that was critically needed. How much of that got built?

  146. @Ken S

    And Ken, after you’ve purchased that generator, you’ll be set for when the wind power nonsense pushes utility power as high as Obama plans for it to “necessarily” be pushed. Then you’ll be better off running your generator with $6 a gallon gas than buying wind energy from the grid.

  147. OK, I was confused about the timeline, and Mike Smith’s use of “yesterday” and “last night”, on his blog didn’t help. I think I have it sorted out now:

    The actual blackouts happened the night of Feb. 1-2; late on Feb. 2 Mike speculated that wind power was essentially absent at the time, but had no data. He pointed to wind data for late Wednesday Feb. 2 and suggested wind was making a minor contribution at the time of posting, i.e. late Feb. 2. AWEA says Texas windmills were actually generating a significant fraction of their capacity during the blackouts early on Feb. 2.; Mike on his blog points out that AWEA has no data for late on Feb. 2, the time of his wind data. BTW, apparently the blackouts ended early Feb. 2.

    Since part of Mike Smith’s article was explicitly speculative, and AWEA’s data (so far unrebutted) refute that speculation, I think he or Anthony should update the article for latecomers. I for one will think no less of Mike for admitting the mistake; premature expostulation happens to all of us, and credibility is worth more than imagined infallibility (as most politicians have yet to learn). :-)

    If AWEA provides data to either confirm or refute Mike’s speculation about Texas wind power late on Feb. 2, that should be added to the article, too.

    BTW, I agree with Mike that wind power should receive no subsidies or mandated quotas, hidden or explicit, and in most locations would be uneconomical without them.

  148. Deja vu? Loss of wind causes Texas power grid emergency HOUSTON | Wed Feb 27, 2008 8:11pm EST

    (Reuters) – A drop in wind generation late on Tuesday, coupled with colder weather, triggered an electric emergency that caused the Texas grid operator to cut service to some large customers, the grid agency said on Wednesday.

    Electric Reliability Council of Texas (ERCOT) said a decline in wind energy production in west Texas occurred at the same time evening electric demand was building as colder temperatures moved into the state.

    The grid operator went directly to the second stage of an emergency plan at 6:41 PM CST (0041 GMT), ERCOT said in a statement.

    System operators curtailed power to interruptible customers to shave 1,100 megawatts of demand within 10 minutes, ERCOT said. Interruptible customers are generally large industrial customers who are paid to reduce power use when emergencies occur.

    No other customers lost power during the emergency, ERCOT said. Interruptible customers were restored in about 90 minutes and the emergency was over in three hours.

    ERCOT said the grid’s frequency dropped suddenly when wind production fell from more than 1,700 megawatts, before the event, to 300 MW when the emergency was declared.

    In addition, ERCOT said multiple power suppliers fell below the amount of power they were scheduled to produce on Tuesday. That, coupled with the loss of wind generated in West Texas, created problems moving power to the west from North Texas.

    ERCOT declares a stage 1 emergency when power reserves fall below 2,300 MW. A stage 2 emergency is called when reserves fall below 1,750 MW.

    At the time of the emergency, ERCOT demand increased from 31,200 MW to a peak of 35,612 MW, about half the total generating capacity in the region, according to the agency’s Web site.

    MORE – see link above

  149. 15,000 people are out of gas in Tucson and evidently it is an interstate pipeline problem stretching all the way from West texas to Arizona. There are not enough supplies in the pipeline to meet demand. There is not a space heater available in town and it is expected to reach 15 degrees tonight and be the coldest temp in Febuary history. water pipes have broken all over town. We are not used to this. My citrus are toast.

  150. Gary Hladik February 3, 2011 at 4:54 pm

    The actual blackouts happened the night of Feb. 1-2;

    I’m thinking it was around the 2 AM CST mark on the 2nd … when the really cold temps ‘took hold’ …


    BTW, apparently the blackouts ended early Feb. 2. …

    Closer to midday based on media reports and obs in the field …

    .

  151. BillyBob says:
    February 3, 2011 at 2:57 pm

    “A few questions for Michael Goggin,”

    The following should answer some of your questions. The problem started with recently built coal plants. The new emission controls’ performance in record cold weather is suspect. Several new coal plants going offline cut power to natural gas pumping stations which then caused pressure to drop at natural gas power plants combined with increased demand for residential gas heating in the record cold.

    Notably, wind generation had some minor icing problems but continued to deliver 3.5 to 4 gigawatts of maximum capacity of 9.4 gigawatts. 40% of maximum capacity for wind power is remarkably good at any time. They held up just fine and continued to deliver nearly as much power as the state’s nuclear power plants which have combined capacity of 5 gigawatts.

    Any questions? I’m happy to do the proper research since the author of the OP, Mike Smith, seems either unwilling or unable to perform any due diligence in his haste to blame wind farms.

    http://www.texastribune.org/texas-energy/electric-reliability-council-texas/the-rolling-chain-of-events-behind-texas-blackouts/

    The Rolling Chain of Events Behind Texas Blackouts
    [snippage]

    tate Sen. Troy Fraser, R-Horseshoe Bay, in a phone call with the Tribune today, stressed that conclusions are still tentative but said a chain reaction of problems involving the state’s coal and gas plants appeared to be the cause — and wind plants were having trouble, too.

    Electricity demand spiked in Texas yesterday as the cold weather struck, setting a wintertime record for usage.

    some coal plants went offline due to cold-weather problems, taking a large chunk of electricity out of the grid. Luminant, a major power-generation company, confirmed that its two coal units at the Oak Grove plant in Robertson County failed, as did two units at a coal plant in Milam County.

    three of these four units only began operating in the last few years; Fraser, who chairs the Senate Committee on Natural Resources, noted that they had new emissions-control technologies, and said one question was how those technologies had handled the cold.

    Natural gas plants were hastily turned on to make up for the coal-plant failures. But, Fraser said, some power cuts affected some stations for compressing natural gas — so without power they couldn’t pump gas, causing some gas power plants to go offline.

    Wind generators also appeared to be having problems, said Fraser; he had received reports of some turbines shutting down because of issues with ice on the blades. “The wind was blowing yesterday, but I’m not sure wind generation was available because they had problems with ice,” he said. (At an Iberdrola wind farm near Corpus Christi that the Trib visited yesterday, most turbines were spinning steadily, in response to the grid operator’s call for maximum production. But the plant’s operator, Daniel Pitts, said that a few machines were having issues because the cold air had affected the nitrogen in the hydraulic system that helps run the turbines.) Dottie Roark, a spokeswoman for ERCOT, said that yesterday morning between 5 a.m. and 8 a.m., about 3,500 to 4,000 megawatts of wind was available (the state has about 10,000 megawatts of wind installed).

    A large minority of Texans heat their homes with gas, in addition to the needs of the power plants, so there was extremely high demand for gas during the freezing weather.

    “We didn’t have enough available gas,” Fraser said. An affidavit filed yesterday with the Railroad Commission by Trip Doggett, the head of the Eletric Reliability Council of Texas, the state’s grid operator, said that “certain gas suppliers may be curtailing natural gas to electric utilities or electric generation customers.” Koenig, of Luminant, confirmed that “one of our gas plants has been curtailed due natural gas supply restrictions.”

  152. Sorry Anthony. I think I was right the first time and whole OP is by Mike Smith. It can get confusing when your name is still at the top and it doesn’t say “guest post by Mike Smith”

    In any case someone should make a retraction. According to ERCOT Texas’ wind farms continued to deliver 3.5 to 4 gigawatts of 9.4 gigawatts faceplate capacity. I’ve been reading claims, here and elsewhere, that wind farms only deliver 8% to 30% of faceplate due to wind speed variability. For Texas wind farms to have delivered around 40% of faceplate capacity during this power crisis is nothing short of outstanding performance.

    For someone who asked about cost of wind vs. nuclear:

    According to US DoE wind generation is $149/kwh and advanced nuclear is $119 but Texas’ nuke plants are conventional not advanced so it’s probably a bit closer to parity than that. In any case the nuke plants are baseline generators while wind power is called in when baseline demand is exceeded. In the case today they performed exceedingly well while several recently built coal plants going offline due to cold weather problems is the root cause.

  153. I’d like to add this tidbit from an EIA.DOE.GOV report excerpted as follows:

    Demand in Texas for natural gas in the electric power sector soared during the week in order to meet heating needs from the current cold spell. The operator for the electric power grid in Texas on Wednesday noted record-levels of demand for this time of year as well as cold-weather-related mechanical failures at power plants, which has resulted in rolling blackouts across the State.

    See also the Natural Gas Transportation Update part on that page for notes regarding nat. gas issues, e.g.:

    Several pipelines posted notices in reaction to the increased demand due to cold weather. According to BENTEK, demand in the Rockies reached record levels on Tuesday and Wednesday due to a cold weather pattern that was moving east. On February 2, Westcoast Energy, Inc. issued a low-linepack Operational Flow Order due to system drafting.

    A “linepack” is the gas effectively stored ‘in transit’ when a long 42″ pipeline is pumped full of gas at 1000 PSI or more …

    Linepack: A 50-mile section of 42-inch transmission line operating at about 1,000 pounds of pressure contains about 200 million cubic feet of gas — enough to power a kitchen range for more than 2,000 years. The amount of gas in the pipe is called the “linepack.”

    .

  154. What ratepayers in Texas should really be cheesed off about is all that mis-allocated capitol in idle wind turbines. That capitol could have been used to build additional peaking plants to prevent the rolling blackouts.

  155. “Also FYI – Texas wind power induced blackouts happened in 2008, see this story.”

    http://www.reuters.com/article/2008/02/28/us-utilities-ercot-wind-idUSN2749522920080228

    The incident in 2008 was not just “wind power induced”. If one reads the article, we find that the situation had multiple causes and interruptible customers were restored in 1.5 hours. Only interruptible customers were affected, those industrial customers that pay less if the utility can shut down certain feeders if required.

    “In addition, ERCOT said multiple power suppliers fell below the amount of power they were scheduled to produce on Tuesday. That, coupled with the loss of wind generated in West Texas, created problems moving power to the west from North Texas.”

    The timeline from official reports on the incident indicate a 150 MW conventional unit tripped as well, contributing to the reserves shortage. The wind facility’s output reduced to its minimum at a rate of 3.5 hours, rather than trip offline at a moment in time.

    Check out the investigations into the incident. It was a learning experience, but certainly nothing catastrophic or indicative of a major reliability problem with a utility grid containing wind power.

    http://www.nrel.gov/wind/systemsintegration/pdfs/2008/ela_ercot_event.pdf

    Dave Springer and Michael Goggin, great comments backed with actual expertise and insight into the recent incident.

    Biomass, wind, solar, enhanced geothermal, hydro, tidal, wave, and algal biodiesel. Large scale electricity storage if necessary via pumped water, underground compressed air or electric vehicles. These are the collection of technologies that will be able to power our world for many generations to come (nuclear too, for the shorter term). It is a responsible thing to do for future generations by developing these technologies now, for many reasons: human health, environment, global warming and peak resources. With proper R&D engineering support, we can have a modern society well into the future likely at low cost and high reliability.

  156. Too many numbers are not adding up to reality.

    The Wind Energy groups are presenting (wild) claims, but have no graphs showing their delivery of actual electricity at actual times of day.

    Worse, they appear to be claiming credit for theoretical power generated during the actual arrival of the cold front (very high winds for a short amount of time) but not for the long hours of much, much calmer winds but very cold temperatures over the long hours AFTER the cold front moved through west TX (the Lubbock are and high plains), central north TX (Dallas and Fort Worth, then east towards Texarkana, south to about Austin), nor the different winds but still temperatures that crossed San Antonio, then Houston then (a little) of deep south TX.

    Until the wind energy groups release their specific hour-by-hour delivery of power for the full three days, I do not believe the press release represents reality. I could be wrong. But making a claim that “Wind power played a major role in keeping the blackouts from becoming more severe. Between 5 and 7 A.M. this morning (the peak of the electricity shortage) wind turbines was providing between 3,500 and 4,000 MW ..” implies that they themselves do not know how power was provided to what region at what time. Further, the newer (largest) wind turbines today are 1 Megawatt at max power.

    Varying just their claimed output between 3500 and 4000 Megawatts means that some 500 wind turbines dropped off line. (Or 1000 wind turbines suddenly and without control dropped 50% of their “claimed” nameplate power.) Gee. What reliability.

    Now – There are several other troubling indicators. We see a power demand suddenly and rapidly rise (literally overnight) from a seasonal 25,000 Meg’s to 50,000 Meg’s of power needed. “Nobody” in Texas uses fuel oil for heating homes and workspaces (unlike the northern states where steam heaters, boilers, and home heating oil is more common) – everything is natural gas burners with electric fans to distribute the hot air, or electric-driven heat pumps, or electric resistance heaters.

    There were (and still are) limits to how much natural gas can flow through the large pipelines that criss-cross the state. Nat gas shortages (the gas simply can’t flow any faster@!@#$%!!!) will limit both home heating AND power plant delivery to power and gas turbine. (Few steam plants are natural gas driven any more – most were converted to coal between the 70’s and early 90’s.)

    The “average” gas turbine plant is about 150 Meg’s to 200 Meg’s. A few new ones are starting construction at 250+ Meg’s – but they aren’t on line yet anywhere. The most common GT is two 150 Meg GT generators plus a third 150 Meg steam turbine-generator being driven by the waste heat recovery boilers from the GT exhaust. So, if I lose the two GT generators because they can’t get natural gas, then the third steam driven unit drops off as well. Result? I lose not one 150 Meg generator, but three.

    I don’t accept the answer that only 2 large coal plants dropping out caused the rolling blackout either. We saw from the graph loaded above that power demand rose by 25,000 that night from seasonal averages. If the two coal-powered plants were 2700 Meg each – which might be the case, but seems grossly high; then we still need to account for the rest of the shortage. By the way, the largest nuclear plants are “only” 1100 Megawatts – so the claim that a single coal plant is 2700 Meg’s needs to be scrutinized. (At least as carefully as the wind energy group’s claims need to be verified.) An “average” older coal-powered plant is 250-300 Megawatts. The larger (“newer”) coal-power plants built from the mid-70’s through the late 80’s was 500 – 800 Megawatts.

    Did 50 large plants go out at the same time? (50 x 500 Megawatts?) Doesn’t seem right.

    Were the output from 50 “new” plants suddenly and unexpectedly needed in 10 hours? Yes.

    Was wind power available to provide that power? No.

    Was nuclear available? Yes. All nuclear plants in the TX grid were at 100%.

    Could 150 large gas turbines make up the missing 50 large coal plants overnight? No.
    1. They were not built -> Could not be built in Obama’s regulatory environment, which demands ONLY wind power and does not permit solar.
    2. The gas turbines that had been built for summer peak electrical loads were being repaired (Sweeny 2, Magic Valley 3, Magic Valley 2, etc.) or could not get natural gas.

    Was the Texas “isolated” national grid to blame? In some ways yes, in some ways no. TX IS an isolated grid system with only AC-DC-AC conversion links at only a few places. (You MUST go back to DC to shift load between grids because of synchronous generation problems. Mess up the synchronous HZ of either grid and you blow up generators with billion dollar electric arcs at 48,000 volts apiece. ) The TX grid is larger than France, or Germany and Eastern Europe, or the UK grid, or the entire Scandinavian-Denamrk-Germany grid. “Hooking it” to the US national grids – Yes, Virginia, there are several US grids – is impossible, impractical, and BAD.

    You cannot “ship” electricity further than 900 miles without losing over 70% to heat losses in the power lines. You “can” exchange voltage that far easily, just as you can get water pressure through a 1/2 garden hose 800 feet to a neighbor’s garage. But open the faucet to get water “flow” (current x voltage, or power) through that little garden hose? You get a dribble.

    TX is larger than most people realize: getting power across the state, getting natural gas across the state reliably is HARD. But getting the politicians – including the wind power propagandists – to deliver the truth may be much harder.

    The questions remain:

    Who was generating what amount of power where during those hours of the blackouts?
    Who was generating what amount of power at what time?
    How many plants had mechanical problems?
    What were those problems? Frozen coal? Frozen 1/4 inch instrument lines? No gas pressure? Freezing cooling water lines? (The cooling ponds could not have frozen in that short amount of time.)

  157. Doug Badgero February 3, 2011 at 6:41 pm

    What ratepayers in Texas should really be cheesed off about is all that mis-allocated capitol in idle wind turbines. That capitol could have been used to build additional peaking plants to prevent the rolling blackouts.

    The ‘capitol residence’ right now in Texas (where Rick Perry would reside) is being rebuilt; a fire during renovation destroyed what effort and capital had already been spent towards renovation.

    As to idle wind turbines, we are finding out that a shortage of natural gas for home heating and gas-turbine electricity generation (as in ‘peaker plant’) probably played a much bigger part in all this …

    .

  158. @racookpe1978

    Very good synopsis of the situation. Do you happen to know what percentage of the 15 large coal plants Tx planned to build, just a few years ago, to meet critical needs, actually got built? Environmentalists vowed to stop all of them. Judging from the situation, it seems they were pretty successful.

  159. racookpe1978 February 3, 2011 at 7:45 pm

    You cannot “ship” electricity further than 900 miles without losing over 70% to heat losses in the power lines. You “can” exchange voltage that far easily, just as you can get water pressure through a 1/2 garden hose 800 feet to a neighbor’s garage. But open the faucet to get water “flow” (current x voltage, or power) through that little garden hose? You get a dribble.

    Hmmm … Path 65 also known as “The Pacific DC Intertie” at 846 mi (64 miles shy of 900) seems to be indicated for a ‘line capacity’ of 3,100 megawatts … http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Pacific_DC_Intertie

    And there are other long lines too on the order of 1200 to 1600 miles: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/High-voltage_direct_current

    So, it may all depend on your technique(s) …

    .

  160. Thanks for the corrections to the timeline, Jim, and the link to Reuters. The Reuters story seems to confirm Mike Smith’s wind data for late on Feb. 2. Fortunately the interruptible customers could “take one for the team” and avoiod a second round of blackouts.

    So Texas was lucky to have some wind power early Feb. 2 and unlucky to lose most of it later the same day?

    Plus the bad luck of the storm itself, of course.

  161. racookpe1978 , excellent questions and clarity.

    I’ve lived in Texas 22 years. The whole time I’ve lived here, the libtards ecowarriors have thwarted any attempts to build generation. They’ve been actively anti-coal and won support from dems and repulicans. Lots of hooey and bad science and not enough real-world thought. So we’ve spent a butt-load of money on feel-good systems and we suffer third-world brownouts when demands exceeds some bean-counters expectation. It’s not like we didn’t know this cold front was coming… they talked about it for a freaking week down here… This was a cluster and deserves a thorough investigation.

    And here’s the main problem I have with wind. Everyone wins, the farmer, the electric company, the State, but we, the people lose. They are a blight on the landscape, they have to be heavily subsidized with State and Federal money and we end users not only pay that money in taxes and debt, but we endure the failures of the precious earth-friendly systems . Build modern nuke plants… 50 of them and cheap electricity for everyone and it’s always available.

  162. Dave Springer says:
    February 3, 2011 at 5:59 pm


    In any case someone should make a retraction. According to ERCOT Texas’ wind farms continued to deliver 3.5 to 4 gigawatts of 9.4 gigawatts faceplate capacity. …..

    For someone who asked about cost of wind vs. nuclear:

    According to US DoE wind generation is $149/kwh and advanced nuclear is $119 but Texas’ nuke plants are conventional not advanced so it’s probably a bit closer to parity than that.

    More shell games. When you roll away the subsidies and add in the backup conventional plant required, the costs are much more than double that. And that’s for nameplate! Triple again for availability shortcomings. Double again for mismatch of peak demand and peak supply. Etc. Then factor in immense transmission costs, servicing difficulty (don’t even think offshore!) and it’s obvious that windfarming is an open artery, bleeding freely onto the sand.

    Windfarms are the all-time champeen theft of public goods by one of de Bueno’s “Selectorates” (the minority that has the keys to the vault). Ever. Makes Spain’s theft of Mayan gold look picayune.

    And guess what? Living within many, many miles of one is really, really bad for you. Google “windfarm subsonics”. On second thought, use Yahoo Search. Google is getting very creative with its PC filtering and ranking. (And Bing is similarly selective … )

  163. Bill Totten, an only quasi-recovered liberal, has posted this (excerpt):

    In a rare interview, Dr Pierpont, a fellow of the American Academy of Pediatrics, told The Independent on Sunday: “There is no doubt that my clinical research shows that the infrasonic to ultrasonic noise and vibrations emitted by wind turbines cause the symptoms which I am calling wind turbine syndrome. There are about twelve different health problems associated with WTS and these range from tachycardia, sleep disturbance, headaches, tinnitus, nausea, visual blurring, panic attacks with sensations of internal quivering to more general irritability.

    “The wind industry will try to discredit me and disparage me, but I can cope with that. This is not unlike the tobacco industry dismissing health issues from smoking. The wind industry, however, is not composed of clinicians, nor is it made up of people suffering from wind turbines.” The IoS has a copy of the confidential manuscript which is exhaustive in its research protocol and detailed case series, drawing on the work of leading otolaryngologists and neurotologists – ear, nose and throat clinical specialists.

  164. Wind generation provides a continuously variable output over time, even in the short term – hour by hour, for example. The Texas wind farms were producing between 3600 and 4000 MW during the first hours of the cold snap. No graphs have been presented that show for how long these generators produced some amount of energy over some period of time. We know the limits but not the duty cycle.

    This variability means there must be load following gas and coal fired generators on line continuously that follow that variation to fill the void. Think about what that means – generators that could produce more are throttled back when wind power is up but barely, then throttled up when wind power falls off. Wind cannot be made to follow load. Are you thinking about what that means? It means generators are not running at maximum output – they are throttled back to inversely match the fluctuating wind generators. And they are also throttled to adapt to changing loads which again is not something wind power is capable of.

    It is important to know too that wind turbine visual activity is no indicator of power generation. A wind mill that is barely ticking over just above the minimum on-line RPM in a variable wind is not a candidate to bring on line.

    Gas and coal fired generators cannot be turned off. They can be throttled, but to stop them is a big decision because it requires a good deal of time and effort to restart them. So even if enough wind is blowing that the gas/coal generators are not needed, they still need to run, and if they run without making energy to sell the costs per hour skyrocket.

    Feel free to check my work – this is my best understanding of uncontrolled inputs on a grid that requires steady power on demand.

  165. There is an excellent blow-by-blow of the Texas rolling blackouts over at MasterResource.

    As for the useless Texas wind power and the causes of the outages here is an excerpt from the article:

    Texas Power Outages: A Preliminary Analysis (Cold snap brings failure–isolated ERCOT an issue) — MasterResource
    “In brief, extreme cold weather pushed power demand to very high winter levels. At the same time, fifty of the state’s power plants were offline due to the effects of the cold, and several others were undergoing planned maintenance. The combination of very high demand and reduced supply left the ERCOT grid perilously short of reserves. Rolling consumer outages were employed to protect the system from failing completely.
    [...]
    Some wondered whether wind power was at fault, but wind contributed about seven percent of ERCOT’s power during the emergency – about the same as this time last year.

    No power system is immune to hazards. But policy decisions that increase the likelihood of hazards or multiply the resulting damages ought to be given careful reconsideration. In this case, the choice by Texas policymakers to keep ERCOT isolated from surrounding power systems prevented power companies within ERCOT from accessing excess power capacity elsewhere in the state and in neighboring states. Other policy issues also are raised by the emergency, but few are likely to be as cost-effective and technically simple to implement as linking ERCOT to its neighbors.”

    http://www.masterresource.org/2011/02/texas-winter-power-outages-ercot/

  166. Jim_in_TX says:
    February 3, 2011 at 4:12 pm
    Again, this had NOTHING to do with wind power. A coal fired plant failed. Nat gas plants failed because of a shortage of nat gas in the ATMOS system.

    Jim, you continue to ignore three messages.
    One, wind power is very expensive, not ecological clean, and dues to its extreme intermittent nature, very unreliable. There has been at least three links to very detailed studies on the problems of wind generation even in “ideal” circumstances like Denmark it is a failure, a misallocation of resources. (Did you read them)

    Two; if Texas had spent considerably less money on additional conventional power production, and or, looking at the cold coming a week out not closed some plants for maintance, this would not have been a problem.

    Third, we do not yet know the entire story as racookpe1978 says: February 3, 2011 at 7:45 pm post details.

    You and other posters that continue to harp on the premature and somewhat wrong assumtions about this one instance in the article percepitating this discussion, are missing the BIG picture.

  167. “FYI – Texas wind power induced blackouts happened in 2008, see this story.”

    That’s a lie. It was not a blackout. The story explicitely states that only industrial users who had purchased interruptable electricity had delivery curtailed for 90 minutes.

    An interruptable supply means just that. These industries enjoy a lower price for electricity in return for being the first ones to have power cut when demand exceeds supply. It works the same way for water during droughts – certain customers have interruptable water so that in a drought situation they are the first to have their water supply reduced and in return they purchase water at a reduced price the rest of the time. Once more Mike Smith demonstrates he doesn’t have the first clue of what he is talking about.

  168. dp says:
    February 3, 2011 at 10:30 pm

    “Feel free to check my work – this is my best understanding of uncontrolled inputs on a grid that requires steady power on demand.”

    Thanks. I checked your work and found that electricity in Texas costs an average of $0.12/kwh which is 10% below the national average. Average price in California is $0.14/kwh and in New York it is $0.19/kwh. California and New York are the only other states with similar size populations to serve.

    Texas is doing an exemplary job of generating electricity and managing its grid. California and New York would be well served to use Texas as an example of how to do better.

  169. In 2006, the only study I could find, which I already linked in a previous comment, Texas spent a total of less than 2 million dollars in “subsidies” for wind turbines which is predominantly in the form of school tax abatements. That’s chicken feed in a state with 20 million people.

    The number is so low because most of the wind farms are on land that is already tax abated via agricultural exemptions.

    The big subsidies are federal tax incentives. Companies like Shell and Exon are the typical owners of these windfarms and are the beneficiaries of federal tax incentives. Federal tax benefits in 2006 for Texas wind farms were five hundred million dollars.

    Farmers are also big winners. They typically receive a lease payment of $5000/yr per wind turbine erected on their land. That’s about twice as much as they get for a cell phone tower. The wind turbine does not significantly effect their farming activity so this is gravy for them. Farms are struggling as it is with variations in weather causing alternating years of feast and famine. Having a wind turbine or cell phone tower on their land provides them with a steady income stream uneffected by good or bad growing seasons.

    If one wants to find the facts on subsidies (actually learning the truth seems to be a low priority for most commenters in this thread) you can find it here:

    http://www.window.state.tx.us/specialrpt/energy/subsidies/

    FYI, for those who can’t be bothered to put in some due diligence in learning the facts, or for those who don’t want the facts get in the way of their hatred of alternative energy production, ethanol subsidies dwarf everything else. If you want to harp on wasteful, harmful subsidies then at least go after the worst one by far – ethanol distilled from corn.

  170. It is the norm nowadays to pay ten times as much for something inferior which would only solve a tiny fraction of the problem even if you believed in the problem. Belief in electric cars and windmills to solve global warming has to be a badge of economic incompetence. Even if used to absurd limits they would be a rounding error on consumption – if they significantly reduce emissions it is only through crippling the economy. The fact that every political party supports it makes you wonder whether this kind of waste and inefficiency is the norm for the public sector.

  171. Brian H says:
    February 3, 2011 at 10:05 pm

    springer: According to US DoE wind generation is $149/kwh and advanced nuclear is $119 but Texas’ nuke plants are conventional not advanced so it’s probably a bit closer to parity than that.

    “More shell games. When you roll away the subsidies and add in the backup conventional plant required, the costs are much more than double that. ”

    Actually those numbers are explicitely absent subsidies. Cost including subsidies are (note how I provide links to data sources – it would nice if you did the same):

    Advanced Nuclear: $114/mwh
    Wind (on shore): $97/mwh

    source: http://www.eia.doe.gov/oiaf/aeo/electricity_generation.html

    This is from the December 2010 report. The figures I quotes previously were from the January 2010 report. The latter explicitely excluded subsidies. In this report I can’t find an exclusion for subsidies so I’m assuming the disparity between $149/mwh and $97/mwh for wind power is the subsidized cost for the lower number. These are total levelized cost estimates for new capacity that would go online in the year 2016. Investors in electrical generation would look to these numbers to decide which types of power sources are the most attractive. As a general rule the lowest cost sources sell into the grid first and as demand rises the more expensive sources get a chance to sell what they can produce.

    I don’t make these things up. If you have more reliable/credible data than U.S. Department of Energy go ahead and provide a reference but I won’t be holding my breath waiting for it – most of the comments and the OP itself are mostly emotional hand waving with little objective analysis or facts to support it. Wind energy is supposedly “green”, environmentalists and liberals like it, and for most of the people here that alone is enough to condemn it. I don’t think that way. These things should be evaluated on a case by case basis and when they make sense they make sense. For example I’ve never had much of a bone to pick with wind farms but on the other hand I knew from the word go that ethanol distilled from corn and sugar, made profitable by obscenely high subsidies, was the worst thing the DoE ever got behind and George W. Bush can be blamed as much if not more than anyone for it as the program really got rolling under his watch.

  172. Mike and Anthony,

    I think the time has come and passed for you to issue a retraction. Even the blog MasterResource, usually a hub of misinformation about wind energy, has directly labeled as “false” your rumors that wind had anything to do with causing the blackouts:

    “A few rumors bounced around the radio waves and internet forums on Wednesday linking the rolling blackouts to ERCOT’s wind capacity, one rumor even claiming that wind power had dropped to zero. The rumors were false. News reports indicate that some wind turbines were out of service due to the cold, but the problems appeared not to be widespread. ERCOT spokesperson Dottie Roark said that wind power plants from between 3,500 to 4,000 MW of power during the worst parts of the emergency, about normal for this time of year.”

    http://www.masterresource.org/2011/02/texas-winter-power-outages-ercot/

  173. It appears that the Texas problem was not the same as the problems in England last month. Here in south central Texas we had plenty of wind during this unusual cold spell (Which I thought was unusual. We usually have windy conditions for a few hours after a cold front, But the wind didn’t die down until late Thursday afternoon.) The wind field plots on the local TV weather showed a good wind field thoughtout the state.

    I am not a big fan of wind power, but we can’t blame the rolling blackouts on wind power. The San Antonio, Tx, newspapers website had this to say:

    “Statewide, about 50 generating units, representing about 7,000 megawatts that ERCOT had been counting on either tripped offline or were unable to come online, Doggett said. That’s almost 10 percent of the grid’s available capacity.

    He blamed those downed units, not excess demand, as the reason behind the power shortage that forced it to call for rolling outages.

    ERCOT lifted the emergency status for utilities across the state late Thursday morning, although Doggett said South Texas remained vulnerable.

    “We continue to have plant outages in the Valley that concern us,” he said.

    The downed plants reported a variety of weather-related problems, like frozen pipes and valves and frozen control equipment. He said grid operators saw no particular pattern, either in location or reason for failure.”

  174. This entire original post was based on an apparent vendetta against the wind industry and a self-admitted guess that turned out to be completely inaccurate.

    How about you just retract it and we can all move on?

  175. Dave Springer.

    Wind in a way is “free riding” on the grid; wind is paid as if it is reliable, when in fact it isn’t, and then the other electricity providers de-facto subsidize wind (again, they already receive Federal and State subsidies) This is true in Texas.

    Coal, nuclear and gas operators must pay for their own backup if an operational or maintenance problem prevents them from delivering power as promised. But if wind generators fail to deliver promised power because the wind doesn’t blow, the cost of backing up wind power companies is spread among all the generators, state officials say. This puts an unfair burden on non=wind generators, says the gas faction.

    So the larger the percentage of a variable source of power (wind) which cannot be controlled is, the greater the cost of all power production is, yet this is not reflected in the true cost of wind energy. In a statist system all animals are equal, but some are more equal then others.

    So Dave Springer
    What was the total cost of building and operating all wind generation in Texas.
    Include all Federal and State subsidies, including any initial tax credits in the building.
    Include the necessary increase in price of non-wind generation paid by non wind generators for Wind powers intermittent problems.

    Include a portion of the capital cost of construction of non wind generation facilities with the cost of wind. This is never included but should be. Imagine you are starting power production from scratch. Wind alone could never be done, but Nuclear for instance could. These capital costs should be included. Wind is riding on the grid and the non wind producers as well.
    .

  176. pjotrk:

    The article you posted was from 2008. I was talking about this post. From Feb. 2, 2011. The one that we’re currently commenting on.

  177. I will serve as the last nail in this coffin. I work for a power marketer on the ERCOT 24-hour desk of my company. The wind power was between 2967 MWs(HE2 on 2/3) and 3489 MWs (HE19 2/2) during the problem. The maximum ERCOT can get from the wind farms is 6500 MWs due to transmission constraints, even though much more has been built and is operational. These values are a matter of public info. If you need the actual data set showing this I think I can post without getting fired.

  178. Dave Springer, you are correct that essentially “ethanol subsidies dwarf everything else.” And I say that as one coming from a family heavily helped by ethanol subsidies. Also, my family has been heavily helped by wind subsidies.

    Although the effort in the study you quote is laudable, it does not give a complete picture of the subsidies to wind in the nation.
    1. Across this nation, there are places were windmills are exempt from property taxes. On the other hand, coal and nuclear plants pay the highest mil rate of all property classes. (Also, moving to the category of petroleum, there is a royalty payment to the government based on oil production – a tax not paid by other energy sources.)
    2. Wind-generated contracts receive a sweetheart deals that utilities must pay. These sweetheart deals guarantee a market for wind-generated electricity at a price above market. This arrangement lowers the cost of capital for wind companies, and increases the cost of capital for utilities. This subsidy is typically not understood by non-financial people.
    3. Wind-generated electricity requires a back –up. If we accept the earlier observation that ERCOT counts only 8% of wind’s nameplate capacity, then 92% of wind’s capacity must be duplicated. The study cited by Mr. Springer does not include this cost.
    4. Typically the back-up capacity for wind is gas. This leads to an over reliance on gas as an energy source. You can see the result in this over-reliance when there was not enough gas in the pipeline to reach the gas generation stations in Texas. Wind is not guiltless when gas is unable to perform due to lack of gas. A more logical plan for capacity construction would have less gas and less wind and more coal. Yes, a couple of coal plants had problems during the system stress, but the total reliability of coal is more than the total reliability of gas and wind. Tom Gray and others seem to miss the point that dollars spent on wind are dollars not available to spend elsewhere.
    5. Let us not forget the 1.5 cent per kwh that the federal government gives to wind generators. That 1.5 cent is more than the typical operating cost of a coal plant.
    6. The list could go on, but I will draw this post to a close.

  179. I am sorry. There is one more noteworthy point to add about wind subsidies not captured by the study mention by Mr. Springer. When power generation is added, transmission lines must be built to move the electricity to the distribution systems, and costs are assigned to generation sources for this transmission. Recently — at least in the Midwest Operating System — wind generators objected to being assigned any costs for transmission, even though transmission lines were being built for their electricity.

  180. Bryan says:
    February 4, 2011 at 9:58 am (Edit)

    Wind was not the cause. Not even a contributor.

    True. Wind was not even a contributor – at less than 30% of its installed capability, it didn’t contribute to much…..except for the hot air being issued about its contribution. 8<)

  181. A few questions for Michael Goggin (yet to answer) ,

    1) What is the capacity of Texas Wind?

    2) How much was actually produced during the time in question?

    3) How much did those turbines cost?

    4) How many coal plants and what MW could have been available if the answer to #3 was spent on coal power plants?

  182. Mark: “The wind power was between 2967 MWs(HE2 on 2/3) and 3489 MWs (HE19 2/2) during the problem. The maximum ERCOT can get from the wind farms is 6500 MWs”

    So the wind was running at 50% capacity that ERCOT can handle.

    But I heard that Wind capacity was 10,000MW so it was only running at 33%?

    But … I thought it was windy. Are you saying Turbines only operate at 33% of actual rated capacity when its windy? What would have happened if it was calm as it was in the UK this winter?

  183. Mark, you say,
    “I will serve as the last nail in this coffin. I work for a power marketer on the ERCOT 24-hour desk of my company. The wind power was between 2967 MWs(HE2 on 2/3) and 3489 MWs (HE19 2/2) during the problem. The maximum ERCOT can get from the wind farms is 6500 MWs due to transmission constraints, even though much more has been built and is operational. These values are a matter of public info. If you need the actual data set showing this I think I can post without getting fired.”

    How much wind power was generated in the State of Texas between 9pm Wednesday evening (2nd) and 7am Wednesday (3rd)?

    Mike

  184. Mike, you made two statements in your post:

    The article didn’t give a clue as to what generating capability failed, but I can make a pretty good guess: Wind energy.

    Now, because of relying so much on wind power, the state is suffering blackouts.

    Both statements are unsupportable. You were just plain wrong in both cases. The sidebar discussions following your post about subsidies, etc. do not advance your argument and are irrelevant to your OP.

    When will you start railing about the the coal plants that weren’t prepared for cold weather? And ERCOT for allowing an unusual amount of baseload capacity to be off line for maintenance?

  185. Mike, you may want to listen to the CEO of ERCOT:

    “Texas Tribune: Were there problems with wind-power plants needing to be shut down for high winds or icing blades, and also did nuclear plants have any problems?

    Doggett: I’m not aware of any nuclear plant problems, and I’m not aware of any specific issues with wind turbines having to shut down due to icing. I would highlight that we put out a special word of thanks to the wind community because they did contribute significantly through this timeframe. Wind was blowing, and we had often 3,500 megawatts of wind generation during that morning peak, which certainly helped us in this situation.”

    http://www.texastribune.org/texas-energy/energy/an-interview-with-the-ceo-of-the-texas-grid/

  186. Buried but not entirely lost in this argument–which some would evidently like to shut down by means of a retraction (because too many pertinent issues are being raised?)–are a few critical questions about wind energy, or any intermittent and non-dispatchable form of generation. I take the liberty of supplying what I believe to be the right answers:

    1) Is it correct to believe we wouldn’t ever have installed enough wind capacity for any of this to matter in the slightest, were it not for the political potency of global warming campaigners? Yes.

    2) Is it correct to believe the volume of greenhouse emissions to be avoided by installing wind capacity ranges somewhere between greatly oversold and nonexistent, owing to the need for equivalent fossil-fueled backup in spinning reserve? Yes.

    3) Assume I’ve answered #2 incorrectly. If so, would it not remain true that meeting only a small percentage of electricity demand with wind generation would result in a correspondingly small (and therefore inconsequential) reduction of greenhouse emissions? Yes.

    4) Given the grid instability that is anticipated to become a serious threat at a (likely fanciful) wind penetration of approximately 20 percent, may we assume meeting a small percentage of electricity demand with wind is as much as we can safely do? Evidently yes.

    5) Then why on Earth do we fool with wind at all?

    Those who feel a need to respond to rhetorical questions are invited to supply their own answers to #5.

  187. Hi everyone,

    Mike Goggin of the American Wind Energy Assn. is posting both here and at meteorologicalmusings.blogspot.com because he has so far avoided the questions I am posing to him at my blog. Yesterday afternoon (5:21pm), he agreed to provide the wind energy data for Wednesday night (2nd) and Thursday morning (3rd). After now FIVE requests, he still hasn’t provided it. This is pertinent because, according to even the pro-wind people the PEAK load was Wednesday evening in Texas, not Wednesday morning! I want to see if wind can be a genuine contributor in extreme weather and load conditions.

    I have stated, over and over, that if there was significant wind energy being generated during the time of the peak load I am open to revising my opinion. He keeps avoiding the issue.

    There WERE reports of wind turbines doing down Wednesday morning during the blackout period, so my “guess” was correct: http://www.texastribune.org/texas-energy/electric-reliability-council-texas/the-rolling-chain-of-events-behind-texas-blackouts/

    There are so many comments, here and at my blog, and so many emails I have personally received it is getting difficult to sort it all out. That said, let me try to reconstruct the “best case” for wind power. Even though there are 10,000MW installed, only 6,800 are possible at any given time due to transmission constraints. Mr. Goggin says that, at best, 3,900 were available from wind during the blackout period. If my math is correct, 39/68 = 57% availability, even though ERCOT had asked for maximum output.

    If your car (which is about the physical size of the turbine itself) failed 43% of the time, I do not believe you would tout that fact as a “success.”

    Finally, valid points about coal plants going offline, etc. If you will read my original post, that very issue IS acknowledged at the end. But here is the problem: Wind energy requires “spinning reserve” from conventional power plants because of its inconsistency. My contention is that if we had simply build more nuclear (or coal) plants with the money spent on wind, the crisis (which interrupted power to hospitals!) could have been avoided.

    Again, please come over to my blog if you would like to follow this, although I’m going to shut this topic down soon as there is only so much time and space I’m willing to devote to it.

    Mike

  188. Goggin fails to provide these numbers from Tuesday night to Wednesday morning. The wind output decreased by 2585 MW from 3 pm Tuesday to 6 am Wednesday. That is about the same capacity lost as the two coal plants that tripped offline Wednesday morning. Roark is correct that they were generating 3630 MW at 6 am Wednesday, but that was down 41% from Tuesday. There is a history of this happening in ERCOT: http://www1.eere.energy.gov/windandhydro/pdfs/43373.pdf

  189. Certain visitors in Anthony Watt’s living room are loudly insisting that Anthony retract what another guest has said to the room with Anthony’s permission.

    Yeah, that says it all.

  190. Is this a reasonable and credible explanation?

    http://theenergycollective.com/michaelgiberson/51062/cold-snap-brings-rolling-power-outages-texas-ercot-policy-isolation-fault


    [...]
    ERCOT reported that severe weather led to the loss of 50 generation units amounting to 7,000 MW of capacity on Wednesday morning. From news accounts it looks like a few large coal plants failed after water pipes burst. Some natural gas generators found insufficient fuel supplies due to heavy demand for natural gas. Other natural gas generators found their access to fuel curtailed by state rules that give priorities to other customer classes when supplies run short. In addition, a larger than usual amount of generation was off-line for scheduled maintenance – one estimate put this quantity at about 12,000 MW.
    [...]
    Texas has pursued a policy of isolation for the ERCOT power grid so as to keep the state’s largest utilities subject primarily to state, rather than federal, regulation. Two minor links connect ERCOT and utilities in Oklahoma, but they are of little commercial significance.
    [...]
    The system needed all of the power it could get. Had more thermal plants been built, at least some of them would have been in service and helpful. Outages would have been moderated a little. Wind generated power was used and useful, but couldn’t be dialed up to produce more during a time of need. Wind power was neither the cause of the problem, nor of any special value in reaching a solution.
    [...]
    It is entirely likely that, had power companies in ERCOT been linked more substantially to other utilities in the state and utilities in neighboring states, Wednesday’s rolling blackouts could have been completely averted. This conclusion is obviously not enough of an argument by itself to justify reforming the state’s policy of isolating ERCOT. But it may be sufficient to rekindle discussions about the costs and benefits of ERCOT’s electrical isolation.
    [...]

  191. Wadayamean coal? Texas sits right on top of extremely rich natural gas sources. Gas fired electric plants(or dual-fuel types) would be a better idea.

  192. Mike Jonas February 4, 2011 at 4:30 pm

    Is this a reasonable and credible explanation? …

    More opinion; let’s wait until a few of the missing facts are found (e.g. what actually failed at the plants that went down, what did planning call for that night in the way of scheduled reserve/spinning reserve in the system, what was wind power actually contributing, were there any transmission constraints, line trips, was the asserted lack of natural gas per some info sources a relevant issue, etc.) …

    .

  193. Jim, I just told you exactly what the wind was contributing and more importantly how much it dropped off in 15 hrs.

  194. Well, the UK isn’t Texas and Texas isn’t the UK.

    But here in the UK, if you aggregate all the published results, half hour by half hour, over the whole of 2010, BigWind provided less than 1% of total for around 60% of the time. And less than 0.1% for around 28 days (aggregated together.)

    That’s for around 3,100 turbines.

    We didn’t have major brownouts in December because clapped out coal power stations, run flat out (and due to close soon because of EU rules) managed to produce around 40% of the power required.

    These things (and this and the previous Government’s cAGW dogma and complete incompetence) have already led to huge increases in fuel bills, fuel poverty and (no doubt) hypothermia deaths.

    Meanwhile this week’s copy of “New Civil Engineer” brings an interesting (?) interview with Alastair Dutton, Crown Estates about the £150 Billion Round Three offshore wind power programme to build 10,000 offshore wind turbines by 2020.

    http://www.nce.co.uk/features/energy-and-waste/offshore-wizard/8610838.article

    OK, let’s just accept that this is Prince Chuckles’ guy making a case for the bizarre investment of £150 Billion, in the middle of an economic train crash, on technology which patently just doesn’t work.

    I’m sure Dave Springer (BigWind’s answer to Bob Ward?) would think that’s a great idea.

    So we absolutely have to pump (at least) £150 Billion into “solutions” that we know don’t work (and which are anyway unachievable) and which would have an immeasurable effect (even if they were achieveable and did work) on a “problem” that likely doesn’t even exist?

    Great!

  195. Michael says @ February 4, 2011 at 12:22 pm: “Mike, you may want to listen to the CEO of ERCOT”

    Michael, ERCOT exists in a heavily regulated environment. The quickest way to cause get your organization in deep trouble in such an environment is to say something that would suggest questioning of the regulators and government. There is tremendous pressure in the electric industry not to speak evil of wind. You would pay dearly for such comments.

  196. @Mike Smith

    “If your car (which is about the physical size of the turbine itself) failed 43% of the time, I do not believe you would tout that fact as a “success.”

    You don’t seem to understand that this kind of variability was known before the first wind turbine was installed. It’s a known constraint not a suprise. Do you think nobody bothered to put up an anemometer and get a record of wind speeds at the potential windfarm locations in advance of erecting scores of expensive windmills? Don’t be naive. Predicting the potential generating capacity days or hours ahead of time is as good (or as poor) as the weather forecast. In this case forecasted winds were actually an hour different from the forecasted winds which contributed to the load management errors. Load balancing on the grid is all about predicting demand ahead of time and allocating generation from different sources to handle the forecast changes in demand.

    “My contention is that if we had simply build more nuclear (or coal) plants with the money spent on wind, the crisis (which interrupted power to hospitals!) could have been avoided.”

    You also don’t seem to understand who “we” is. We (the public) doesn’t build wind farms. Privateers such as Shell, Exxon, and T. Boones Pickens build wind farms. They are risking their own capital in building generating plants. They look at the numbers and choose what they think is the best profit opportunity. The federal government offers tax incentives to make some kinds of generation more attractive than others just like the federal government offers home mortgage interest tax deductions and sometimes tax credits to encourage home buyers, or tax credits for college tuition to encourage college enrollments, etc. You should be aware that Texas offers virtually nothing in the way of tax incentives or other subsidies for building wind farms. A wind farm can get a school tax abatement for the land where a turbine sits but almost all the land used to site these things already has an agricultural exemption so there’s no subsidy coming from Texas. In 2006, the only year I could find data for, total subsidies for wind farms in Texas amounted to less than 2 million dollars. That’s chickenfeed in a state with 20 million people.

    So when you talk about “we” building wind farms unless you’re talking about Shell stockholders then the “we” is really “they” not you or I.

  197. Crustacean says:
    February 4, 2011 at 12:35 pm

    “1) Is it correct to believe we wouldn’t ever have installed enough wind capacity for any of this to matter in the slightest, were it not for the political potency of global warming campaigners? Yes.”

    I’m sure that’s a contributing factor but I think the primary reason is that for every megawatt of wind power that can be generated it’s a megawatt less taken out of national coal and gas reserves. That means our national reserves of these fossil fuels will last longer. Most people realize that coal and natural gas supplies will not last forever and they also realize that the wind will never stop blowing.

    “2) Is it correct to believe the volume of greenhouse emissions to be avoided by installing wind capacity ranges somewhere between greatly oversold and nonexistent, owing to the need for equivalent fossil-fueled backup in spinning reserve? Yes.”

    Survey after survey has shown that Americans don’t place greenhouse gas emissions as a high priority problem. They are far more concerned with unemployment, rising health care costs, rising college tuitions, and so forth. Global warming is a very low priority item for the majority. So while the environmentalist whackos might believe it’s a very good thing, and believe it’s better than it really is, I believes it’s a non-concern for everyone else.

    In regard to spinning backup that does indeed lower the GHG reduction of wind power but maybe not as much as you might think. To keep a generator spinning with no load requires a minimal amount of energy input. It’s exactly like the difference between how much fuel you car consumes when idling and how much it consumes out on the highway moving at 70 miles per hour. The difference is drastic. When idling only enough fuel is needed to compensate for friction and heat loss in the motor which is minimal and in the latter case you need enough fuel to overcome rolling resistance of the tires and wind resistance of the body. Keeping a generating plant on spinning backup means you supply enough fuel to maintain the boiler with a head of steam but you’re only drawing off enough steam to compensate for frictional losses in the turbine and generator shafts plus a little waste heat left in the steam after it runs through turbine. Waste heat loss in modern steam turbines is minimal as the techology to extract every last bit of usable heat is quite good these days.

    “3) Assume I’ve answered #2 incorrectly. If so, would it not remain true that meeting only a small percentage of electricity demand with wind generation would result in a correspondingly small (and therefore inconsequential) reduction of greenhouse emissions? Yes.”

    Greenhouse gas reductions realized from wind generation is so small as to be neglible. In fact any practical means of reducing greenhouse gas emissions won’t have any measurable effect on global climate. The whole greenhouse gas brouhaha is a load of bullsht. For one thing no can demontrate that anthropogenic GHGs are doing anything significant to the climate, no one can demonstrate that if they are indeed warming the globe that the warming is not a good thing, and no one can demonstrate that any practical reduction in emissions will have any significant effect whatsoever.

    “4) Given the grid instability that is anticipated to become a serious threat at a (likely fanciful) wind penetration of approximately 20 percent, may we assume meeting a small percentage of electricity demand with wind is as much as we can safely do? Evidently yes.”

    We can safely do as much as we want so long as there is backup generation sufficient to meet uncertainties in wind power generation. Predicting wind power available at any point in time is only as good as the meteorologists are at forecasting the winds and demand for power is only as good as temperature forecasts. Usually they’re pretty good at it but they aren’t infallible. Load balancing on the grid is a complicated affair. Wind power is a relatively new source. With anything new there is a learning curve. We’ll get better at it as time goes on. In the meantime there will be mistakes and occasionally times when power goes out. Power failures have been happening since the first electrical wires were strung. Generators fail unexpectedly, extreme winds and ice storms take out transmission lines, transformers fail, extremes of heat and cold cause rare spikes in demand, and so forth.

    There’s an economic balancing act that goes on between having enough power plants to meet demand during the most extreme and most rare conditions and having plants that sell enough power to operate at a profit. You see, if you have enough plants around to meet large demand spikes that only happen for a few days once every ten years it means those extra plants sit idle the rest of the time and turn profits into losses. Having too few plants means more times where there isn’t enough power available to meet rare demand spikes.

    Since power plants and built and operated by private corporations operating for a profit the tendency is to build fewer plants that operate closer to maximum capacity all the time. This generates the most profit. Competition is what works to limit the profit incentive. Just as WalMart is willing to trim profit to a mininum in order to offer the lowest prices and make up for the low profit margin with high volume power producers are also tempted by the same thing. Federal, state, and local government steps in by offering tax incentives and building transmission lines to encourage what it feels is in the public’s best interest to keep the generation capacity both reasonably priced, available when and where it is needed, and reliable under all but the most extreme conditions.

    “5) Then why on Earth do we fool with wind at all?”

    Because it reduces the rate at which national coal and natural gas reserves are being drawn down, it is non-polluting, the wind is free for the taking and will keep blowing practically forever, and last but not least there is profit in it for the owners.

    Those who feel a need to respond to rhetorical questions are invited to supply their own answers to #5.

  198. Martin Brumby says:
    February 5, 2011 at 6:44 am

    “Well, the UK isn’t Texas and Texas isn’t the UK.”

    Very true. I don’t know and don’t really care how wind farms are financed and operated in the UK. I live in Texas and buy my electricity off the ERCOT grid. What I know is that I pay $0.11/kwh from my local electrical power co-op, which is a penny less than the average rate in Texas, 10% lower than the U.S. average price, and far better than comparably populus states California (avg. $0.14) and New York ($0.19). Power getting cut to my home has not increased in frequency since the wind turbines have been installed. By far the most frequent reason my power goes out is transmission lines getting severed by falling trees in windstorms and ice storms. Power outages happen far more often in my rural home than they do in my city home due to having more miles of electrical lines vulnerable along winding two lane roads with trees crowding the wires and repair crews taking longer to find the problems and having to travel farther to get to them. Power outages due to insufficient power generation available is rare enough so it it is, so far anyhow, of no practical concern to me.

  199. Dave Springer: “Most people realize that coal and natural gas supplies will not last forever”

    100 years of supply in the USA thanks to Shale Gas.

    1000 or more years once Methane Hydrates come online.

    Why kill people now by ruining the grid with unreliable wind?

    Why buy Wind Turbines from China when the USA has huge stockpiles of cheap natural gas?

    Dave Springer: “We (the public) doesn’t build wind farms.”

    The “public” (taxpayers) pay for 30% of the construction costs.

    “The grant program that Congress has extended was created in the 2008 stimulus bill. It forces taxpayers to pay 30% of a renewable energy project’s costs. Big Wind insisted on these grants because wind energy producers don’t make enough net income to take advantage of the generous renewable energy tax credit.

    The industry also wants a federal renewable energy standard, which would require utilities to buy power from green energy projects regardless of price. Without that additional subsidy, AWEA concedes that wind power will “stall out.””

    http://energizevermont.org/2011/01/wsj-the-wind-subsidy-bubble/

  200. “Texas Comptroller Susan Combs has determined the state is paying too much in tax subsidies to wind farms. A new study by her office found that tax breaks offered by school districts as economic development lures are “increasingly used to over-incentivize projects that create few or no jobs.”

    About two-thirds of the projects are wind farms, and the cost per job is 40 times what the state spends on projects financed through the Texas Enterprise Fund.”

    http://blogs.chron.com/lorensteffy/2010/12/the_hot_air_beh_1.html

  201. Thanks Duncan. From your link to this one:

    “Wind generators apparently do not work as well when it is cold. There were enough areas in Texas on Tuesday where the night was clear and cold and the wind dropped, shutting down generating capacity apparently quite rapidly. There was also a relatively high demand for electricity due to the very cold temperatures throughout Texas.

    This is one of several instances where wind generation failure in Texas has resulting in blackouts and problems with the electrical grid. Blackouts present problems especially when electrical power is needed during very cold or very hot weather. Keith Johnson of reported in The Wall Street Journal that wind power has not been nearly as efficient and productive in Texas as has been claimed,

    The Lone Star state famously leads the U.S., itself the world leader, in wind power. But how much wind power—really—does Texas have?

    Less than one-tenth of its official tally of more than 8,000 megawatts, says Robert Bryce in the Energy Tribune. That’s because wind power is a lot more fickle than other power sources, such as natural gas, coal, or nuclear power.

    The Texas electricity authority, ERCOT, figures the state’s wind power capacity is only 8.7%. That means for every 100 megawatts installed in a wind farm, power authorities can only count on seeing 8.7 megawatts of electricity produced. That’s a lot less than the standard line that wind power in the U.S. produces at about 30% or 35% of its nominal capacity.”

    OUCH: http://lubbockonline.com/interact/blog-post/may/2011-02-04/power-went-down-texas

  202. BillyBob says:
    February 5, 2011 at 10:42 am

    “Dave Springer: “Most people realize that coal and natural gas supplies will not last forever”

    100 years of supply in the USA thanks to Shale Gas.

    1000 or more years once Methane Hydrates come online.”

    No one has figured out how to economically mine methane hydrates from the ocean floor. Not for lack of trying either. Ten or more years ago I thought methane hydrates would be a nifty new fuel source but not anymore. It’s become something like nuclear fusion power – perpetually 20 years away from becoming commercially viable. Adding to the problem of mining methane ice is getting it from the offshore mining operation to the power plants that use it. Liquification and moving by tanker ships and tanker trucks is expensive. Typically natural gas is used close to the source and piped to the consumer as a gas. It’s ubiquitous in oil fields and considered a nuisance if there isn’t a nearby consumer for it. As a byproduct of oil wells it’s either burned off at the well-head or compressed and driven back down underground to maintain pressure in the oil formation so that more oil is forced out of it. There is notihng on the horizon that I know of to change any of these constraints on methane ice mining so unless you know something I don’t about it we can’t bank on being able to economically substitute methane from ocean floor hydrates for methane from continental production fields.

    “The “public” (taxpayers) pay for 30% of the construction costs.”

    It’s true enough since 2008. As part of the emergency stimulus bill $43B was allocated for renewable energy projects and wind farms were big players. It was supposed to expire in 2010 but I believe it’s been extended to 2012.

    The author of the OP is in Austin, TX (same as me) and the rolling blackout that cut power for 45 minute intervals over the course of a few hours happened in Texas. As well Texas is by far the largest producer of energy from wind and Texas also has its own independent electrical grid (unlike the rest of the nation where there are two national grids that each span many states). So when he claims “we” spent billions I assumed he meant we Texans spent billions. That’s patently untrue. Texas hardly spends a dime on it. The wind farms are privately owned & operated and virtually all the financial incentives are federal. Up until 2008 the incentives were tax credits meaning that to claim them you had to owe the federal government at least as much as the credit you were claiming. That’s not exactly like a handout of free money. It’s a matter of the federal government confiscating less of your income.

    On first blush this might appear to result in a reduction of federal tax revenues but that’s still a matter of dispute because the goverment still taxes the salaries of every individual working in the industry from the guy who is working on the assembly line making the parts to the truckers moving the parts from plant to site to the people who assemble the turbines and the people who operate, maintain, and repair them. The argument is made that this creates “good” jobs (“good” being well above minimum wage) whereas absent the investment stimulus these people would be on the unemployment rolls collecting federal unemployment benefits instead of being gainfully employed and paying payroll taxes. I’m not prepared to say whether that revenue neutrality hypothesis is true or not although I think it probably is at least to some extent.

  203. @the moderators

    I’m being moderated via the blacklist (or the spam bucket if you wish to call it that)for about the past week. Is this typical for people who don’t rubber stamp their approval on every article that appears here?

    It’s annoying not to see my comments appear immediately tagged with “awaiting moderation” and since not a single one of my comments has failed to eventually appear I don’t see what good it does except for causing more work for the moderators digging comments out of the spam queue and possibly making me repeat things I’ve already written because I can’t review it. Not a single one of my comments that I know of has failed to be approved.

    How about either banning me outright so I can go complain elsewhere that WUWT doesn’t allow equal time for contrary views or take my email address out of the blacklist and treat me like everyone else. The current discrimination against me is starting to piss me off.

    [Reply: No one is banning you. WordPress automatically puts some comments into the spam folder based on words, phrases and links. WP does not disclose their algorithms. They use the Akismet spam filter. Your comments are all posted, although there may be a delay until a mod rescues them from the spam bucket. Have patience. ~dbs, mod.]

  204. BillyBob says:
    February 5, 2011 at 2:28 pm

    “Texas Comptroller Susan Combs has determined the state is paying too much in tax subsidies to wind farms. A new study by her office found that tax breaks offered by school districts as economic development lures are “increasingly used to over-incentivize projects that create few or no jobs.”

    I’m calling bullsht on this. If Susan Combs has determined any such thing she hasn’t published it. The official report is here:

    http://www.window.state.tx.us/specialrpt/energy/subsidies/index.php#wind

    and shows tax abatements to wind farms in the latest year with data available amounted to $1,508,400 (see exhibit 28-21).

    I challenge you to find any official report by Combs that confirms the rumored report mentioned by the Austin-American Statesman. The following search should turn up everything in the state records on this and it just isn’t there:

    http://www.google.com/search?sourceid=navclient&ie=UTF-8&rlz=1T4GGLL_enUS382US382&q=wind+farm+subsidy+combs+site%3a*.tx.us

  205. Duncan & Billybob:

    The fact of the matter is that prediction of wind power generation is only as good (or as poor) as the weather forecasts of wind speeds. Prediction of power demand is also only as good (or as poor) as weather forecasts of temperatures.

    Since the blog owner is a meteorologist I think it would be great if Anthony could write an article on this aspect of wind power generation given it’s his profession and professional colleagues who play a very large part in how well electricity from wind farms and power demand can be forecast and planned in advance.

    Regardless of how well production and demand can be balanced to avoid interruptions in supply it still remains a fact that every megawatt hour produced by wind power is megawatt less taken out of national coal and gas reserves which aren’t bottomless pits. There’s currently a crisis in natural gas supply effecting all the southwestern states and California. Right now there isn’t enough natural gas available to meet the demand. It isn’t that there aren’t enough power plants it’s there isn’t enough gas to run them. That has nothing to do with wind power, nothing to do with how many natural gas fired plants there are, and everything to do with the natural gas supply chain that fuels those NG power plants. There just isn’t enough production and distribution of gas to meet the spike in demand from the record cold arctic air mass covering most of the nation. Essentially what is being complained about is that wind farms didn’t come to the rescue when the natural gas supply broke down under the strain. Wind is fickle. Wind turbines are helping the situation but they aren’t miracle workers.

  206. BillyBob says:
    February 5, 2011 at 6:20 pm

    “The Lone Star state famously leads the U.S., itself the world leader, in wind power. But how much wind power—really—does Texas have?”

    “OUCH: http://lubbockonline.com/interact/blog-post/may/2011-02-04/power-went-down-texas

    This is another case of misunderstanding or misreporting by the press.

    10% of faceplate capacity is how much ERCOT purchases from windfarms not how much the windfarms are offering for sale. The windfarms can produce, on average, over 30% of faceplate capacity. What actually gets purchased and consumed is, on average, 10% of faceplate capacity.

    The basis of this misunderstanding is that ERCOT purchases the lowest priced electricity first and turns to more expensive sources when the lowest price source is not enough to meet demand. The lowest price electricity comes from combined-cycle natural gas turbines. Advanced coal fired turbines are the next cheapest, conventional coal the next cheapest, hydro-electric and nuclear are next up, then comes wind farms. Hydro-electric is just as fickle as wind as it is in short supply during droughts and in abudance during floods. Rain in Texas is generally excessive during El Nino and minimal during La Nina. This in turn determines whether impounded bodies of water with hydro-electric generation at the base of the dam are close to full or close to empty. Funny you never hear anyone bitching about the unreliability of hydro-electric like they do about wind energy. I have a home on the shore of a major water impoundment that supplies water for the city of Austin and a number of nearby cities, water for industry, water for agriculture 100+ miles downstream (primarily rice farms) and also produces electricity as the water is released. When the reservoir level gets low releases are curtailed to “interruptable” consumers so that more critical needs (such as Austin residents having water flowing from their taps) continue to be met for as long as possible. As the water level in the reservior declines the water pressure at the base of the dam declines and with the reduced pressure comes reduced power to spin the electrical generators. The water supply situation and hydro-power is of course not as unpredictable on a day to day basis as wind power but on a year-to-year basis it is far more unpredictable than wind generation. The reason no one complains about the unpredictability of hydro-electric power is everyone understands and accepts the constraints while wind farms are new and few people seem to understand the constraints associated with it.

  207. I forgot to include a link to the ERCOT report on wind generation from which I drew the numbers (30% of faceplate offered for sale, 10% actually purchased):

    http://www.ercot.com/content/meetings/board/keydocs/2010/0420/Item_13_-_Review_of_Wind_Generation_Impact_on_Ancillary_Serv.pdf

    Don’t believe everything you read in the press. You’re relying on what may be a dimwitted or biased reporter’s interpretation of the data instead of actually confirming it for yourself. If the original source is available go to that to confirm what’s reported in the press. Quite often the press doesn’t accurately represent the original source.

  208. @ moderators

    Thanks for the reply. I’m very familiar with both WordPress and Akismet as I was the administrator of high traffic blog for several years. I used Akismet for my spam filter too and for “problem users” I’d put their email address into the blacklist (usually used for naughty words not naughty users) but the end result is the same for blacklisted words and comments that Akismet determines is spam.

    Every single one of my comments is landing in the spam bucket. It’s not happening because of blacklisted words or phrases as those don’t show up in every comment. Unless you or another moderator put my email address in the blacklist then Akismet somehow has my email address tagged as spam.

    I’ve had that happen to commenters on the blog I used to manage – Akismet dumping every one of their comments into the spam bucket for no apparent reason. It was difficult explaining to those users what was happening and why. I couldn’t get Akismet to explain it to me either so I and a few of my subscribers just had to live with it.

    I apologize for thinking you’d put my email address in the blacklist. Getting all my comments dumped to spam happened simultaneously with Anthony telling me to get my head out of my ass and me responding in a similar tone. Naturally I assumed it was an intentional addition to the blacklist instead of an unexplained Akismet determination.

    Thank you for the time it takes to go through spam queue pulling out Akismet’s mistakes. I have personal experience with how time consuming it is performing that particular moderation chore.

  209. @Dave Springer

    Granted, wind turbines are lowering greenhouse gas emissions, ever so slightly. I don’t think their benefits are any where near worth the cost of their subsidies. Then, there’s the absolute fact that nearly every megawatt of wind will always have to be backed up with a megawatt from something that will be available when the wind doesn’t blow.

    If wind isn’t having to pay 5 or 6 cents for each kilowatt hour it generates to a fossil generator that is idled by that generation (but must exist to back up the wind), then wind is getting that much more of a free ride, after all the subsidies it’s already getting.

  210. @Dave Springer

    Your most recent post, where you point out that natural gas production and distribution bottlenecks mean it can’t be relied on in a demand spike, is an excellent argument for building four or five hundred large coal fired power plants around the country on a congressionally-mandated fast track.

    I’ll point this urgent need out to my congress lady.

    Not only would this help secure our energy future, an all-out build out of modern, highly efficient, coal units would actually lower CO2 emissions by replacing old obsolete units with more efficient units.

  211. mike g

    I’d rather see advanced nuclear put on the fast track than I would coal power plants even though coal is cheaper. Nuclear fuel, especially thorium breeders, is virtually unlimited. The problem is that there’s a lot of engineering and validation to get from Oak Ridge National Laboratory’s liquid florine thorium reactor (LFTR) 7.5mw research unit that operated from 1964-1969 transformed into a safe, economical 1000mw commercial design. Department of Energy estimates that will take 20 years to get the first plant online. A fast-track effort would probably not reduce that by more than 5 or 10 years. Coal plants on the other hand can go from drawing board to operation in matter of a couple of years.

    The problem with coal plants is uncertainty. Since these are privately financed and operated for profit energy producers have to know with reasonable confidence that egregious CO2 emissions mandates from the EPA or congress aren’t going to come crashing down upon them and turn a profitable power plant into a money losing power plant.

    Adding to the incertainty are promising new technologies which can, in the time required for a new nuclear or coal plant to pay for itself and start turning a profit, come along to produce electricity at a lower price point than coal or nuclear. If that happened then the investment in the coal or nuclear power plant turns it from a profitable enterprise into one that will never pay for the cost of building it.

    Biofuel produced directly from sunlight, CO2, and waste water by genetically engineered microorganisms are already here with pilot plants under construction expected to come out of the starting gate with any hydrocarbon-based fuel from diesel to ethanol to methane at a price point competitive with $30/bbl crude oil. There’s a huge technogical leap happening as we speak in biofuel production. It isn’t happening through distillation of corn or even conversion of “waste” biomass such as cornstalks but rather through direct conversion (one step process) of sunlight, CO2, and municipal waste water (or sea water + nutrients) into ready-to-use diesel, ethanol, av-gas, and natural gas (methane). Synthetic biology is so close to large scale commercial application that it represents a clear and present danger to anyone tempted to invest in traditional energy sources where that investment needs 10 years or more before it becomes profitable.

    Also keep in mind that the electrical grid is running closer to capacity during periods of high demand than the plants which produce the electricity to feed onto the grid. All the big brownouts that have hit the northeast were grid failures not power plant failures. Upsizing the power grid is very expensive and time consuming because it generally entails condemning private property for rights-of-way. You can’t go vertical on existing rights-of-way to add capacity because the transmission lines need more separation than you can get by stacking them higher. So you have to go horizontal adding more towers in a parallel track and that means acquiring more real-estate to do it. People don’t like being forced to sell their property for the public good and fight it tooth & nail through every means at their disposal. Conversely the government doesn’t care to pay premium prices that unwilling landowners would voluntarily sell for so condemnation is often how it is resolved. I don’t like condemnation of private property for the public good one tiny bit. The only way to avoid that is by decentralized production of electricity. I hold out a great hope that solar photo-voltaic and net metering will decline in cost enough so that it becomes common for people to have PV on their roofs almost as easy and cheap as putting up new shingles and that these will largely meet their daytime electricity needs and when it is cloudy or at night they draw power from the grid in the usual manner. Right now it costs about 3 times as much to produce your own PV electricity as it does to buy it off the grid but there is vast room for improvement. The cost of net metering grid ties are ridiculously expensive – almost as much as the cost of the photovoltaic panels themselves. Standardization, economy of scale in mass production, and further improvements in manufacturing of solar panels I hope will bring the price for the consumer down to parity with grid prices within the next 10 years.

    Steam turbines don’t get efficient until they are very large units so I doubt the hoopla about small, semi-portable nuclear power plants is ever going to amount to anything so the only promising way to decentralize electrical production and thus make do with the existing power grid is photo-voltaics. I think the electric car is a huge boondoggle too with primary reason being there isn’t enough electricity for more than a tiny fraction of the ground transportation fleet to recharge from the grid – plus there is a looming shortage of niobium required for manufacture electrical wheel-drive motors and there’s just nothing on the horizon in battery storage technology and a big leap is needed there to make anything but short-commute vehicles a viable consumer product.

    It’s a mess but I’m confident that new technologies will come to the rescue. I think those technologies are not the ones most people would agree are the most promising. Wind power is a niche player. It’s useful and there’s a role for it primarily as a band-aid until some truely inexpensive practical alternatives come online.

  212. Methane Hydrates

    “Seabed drilling exploration for methane hydrate in coastal waters, utilizing a world-class deep sea exploration vessel, is scheduled to start Saturday.

    The Japan Oil, Gas and Metals National Corporation, an independent administrative body, will conduct the exploration using the “Chikyu” research ship.”

    http://www.yomiuri.co.jp/dy/business/T110131002852.htm

    Dave Springer: “What actually gets purchased and consumed is, on average, 10% of faceplate capacity.”

    So the money to build the Tubines was squandered. As I thought.

    Dave, the report damning wind farms is here:

    http://www.texasahead.org/tax_programs/chapter313/TEDA2010-96-1359.pdf

    “Combs stated that the cost to the state per job is nearly $1.6 million, roughly 40 times more than the cost per job under the Texas Enterprise Fund”

  213. _Jim says:
    February 3, 2011 at 8:37 pm (Edit)

    racookpe1978 February 3, 2011 at 7:45 pm

    You cannot “ship” electricity further than 900 miles without losing over 70% to heat losses in the power lines. You “can” exchange voltage that far easily, just as you can get water pressure through a 1/2 garden hose 800 feet to a neighbor’s garage. But open the faucet to get water “flow” (current x voltage, or power) through that little garden hose? You get a dribble.

    Hmmm … Path 65 also known as “The Pacific DC Intertie” at 846 mi (64 miles shy of 900) seems to be indicated for a ‘line capacity’ of 3,100 megawatts … http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Pacific_DC_Intertie

    Yes. All of the DC inter-ties are limited that way by only allowing power to be sent through extremely expensive AC-DC conversion systems at either end. If you are in the middle of the DC string, you CANNOT get any power from the line going overhead, but have to use a local conventional overhead transmission line.

    (The Pacific Intertie is one of the longest in the world by the way, and, at over 500,000 volts to reduce – but NOT eliminate! – losses still suffers considerable transmission losses 25% that are “accepted” as a penalty for getting the power that far from the hydro power plants of the Columbia River to the air conditioners of Los Angelos.) That is, it is far more economical to build two or three “generating” power plants at 400 to 500 mile intervals – and use a conventional overhead network of power lines at 150,000 to 250,000 volts that you can actually connect to rather than build a multi-billion AC-DC-AC tie. Ties are important for grid-grid ties, and for underwater transmissions – like in the European islands – but only for those very expensive, very limited places. For hooking up real users? You need to use a conventional 150,000 – 250,000 cross-country line. Losses go down for the higher voltages in such a conventional line by the I^2R law, but the extra voltage gets very, very expensive quickly!

    (North New Hampshire’s NPS is attempting to tie into Canada’s hydro power from Niagara Falls just over the hills. That effort is going to take over ten years and 1.2 billion dollars – for a net distance less than a eastern Dallas suburb to a western Fort Worth suburb. For 1.2 billion dollars, you can build quite a few conventional plants that will actually generate real power close to the place where it will be actually be used, rather than “lose power” through heat losses merely moving power from one place to another!)

  214. I thought I might take this opportunity to post the time line as published in the Dallas Morning News titled:

    Freeze knocked out coal plants and natural gas supplies, leading to blackouts
    By ELIZABETH SOUDER, S.C. GWYNNE and GARY JACOBSON
    Published 06 February 2011 12:56 AM

    and do so under the Fair Use provision of the copyright act:

    – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – –

    Texas’ power crisis timeline

    Monday

    Jan. 31 6:08 a.m.: ERCOT control room issues an operational message that says a cold front is approaching. Temperatures are expected to be 18 degrees or lower and remain near or below freezing, affecting half or more of major metropolitan areas, beginning at 9 a.m. Tuesday.

    Tuesday

    9:07 a.m.: ERCOT repeats its weather warning.

    Before midnight: Gibbons Creek coal-fired generating plant near Bryan goes offline. It would be back up at midday Wednesday, off again late that day and up again early Thursday.

    Wednesday

    After midnight: Four of Luminant’s coal-fired units in Central Texas go offline, as does one unit at a CPS Energy coal-fired plant in San Antonio. Officials decline to give specific times. The CPS unit is back up again by 11 a.m.

    2:49 a.m.: ERCOT control issues an advisory because it doesn’t expect to have enough power generation to meet demand. “Physical Responsive Capability” is below 3,000 megawatts.

    3:21 a.m.: ERCOT e-mails that notification to Public Utility Commission Chairman Barry Smitherman and other top regulators. The advisory rates the probability of cutting off customers as “low.”

    3:30 a.m.: Real-time settlement point price for electricity in North Texas is $80.95 a megawatt hour. Some electricity in Texas trades on an electronic spot market, where retailers and big consumers can buy power each day from wholesalers.

    3:45 a.m.: Settlement price jumps to $1,117.60 a megawatt hour. Prices typically spike on the spot market when supplies are tight.

    5:08 a.m.: ERCOT control issues “watch” because Physical Responsive Capability is below 2,500 MW.

    5:18 a.m.: ERCOT declares Level 2A of Energy Emergency Alert, meaning the grid has less than 1,750 megawatts of available reserves, a thin margin. ERCOT cuts power to customers who agreed to be part of an interruptible load program.

    5:20 a.m.: ERCOT CEO Trip Doggett is in the shower when the emergency notification comes in. When he sees the notice, he calls Ken Saathoff, ERCOT’s vice president of grid operations, to gather information. He then spends half an hour calling the three PUC members, the PUC executive director and one of the governor’s advisers. He then drives to ERCOT’s back-up control room in Austin and begins calling legislators.

    5:43 a.m.: ERCOT declares a Level 3 EEA, the highest emergency level, meaning the grid is struggling to maintain system frequency at 59.8 Hz or greater. ERCOT instructs power line utilities to use rolling outages to cut demand.

    5:52 a.m.: PUC chairman Smitherman gets a call from ERCOT’s market monitor, Dan Jones. Smitherman, sick in bed with a sinus infection, doesn’t answer. He takes a call from Doggett at 6:23, and heads to the backup control room, canceling a speaking engagement at Texas A&M University. He will spend much of the day coordinating with leaders of other state agencies to move more fuel to power plants.

    6:14 a.m.: Austin Energy issues a news release about rolling blackouts statewide.

    6:15 a.m.: Settlement price hits $3,001 megawatt hour.

    6:54 a.m.: ERCOT issues a news release about rolling blackouts statewide.

    8 a.m.: ERCOT asks Oncor to exclude natural gas compressor facilities from the rolling blackouts. Oncor asks for specific customers, but ERCOT isn’t able to provide names.

    After 8:30 a.m.: A coal unit at NRG Energy’s Limestone plant near Jewett goes offline. It comes back just after 2 a.m. Thursday.

    9:30 a.m.: ERCOT asks Oncor to exclude from the blackouts five counties in the heart of the natural gas production zone: Jack, Palo Pinto, Wise, Parker and Hood. Oncor does. Half an hour later, ERCOT asks Oncor to exclude areas west of Fort Worth from the blackouts, and Oncor complies. Oncor sends crews to repair lingering outages.

    11:04 a.m.: ERCOT sends an e-mail to Atmos and other natural gas companies asking for the location of any facilities affected by the outages. Atmos’ pipeline equipment runs on natural gas and is not affected.

    Midday: Natural gas supply to Atmos’ system drops off as gas well equipment freezes. Producers struggle to get workers to the field to repair the equipment in the cold. Atmos curtails supply to industrial customers between Interstate 30 and the Red River.

    Luminant asks Atmos for a large supply of natural gas to fire up the Lake Ray Hubbard natural gas plant. Atmos declines, saying the request would shut off its residential customers and shut down part of Atmos’ system, requiring weeks to return everyone to service. Atmos offers to move the large supply to Luminant’s DeCordova plant in Hood County, but Luminant doesn’t take the offer.

    2:13 p.m.: ERCOT calls off rotating blackouts. ERCOT warns it may have to initiate another round of outages that evening or the following day, but it doesn’t have to do so.

    .

  215. racookpe1978 February 6, 2011 at 7:52 am


    Yes. All of the DC inter-ties are limited that way by only allowing power to be sent …

    As I said, it depends on your technique(s)

    Also please note the other long lines mentioned (AC lines I think) and also please note some losses are due to dielectric losses in transmission lines (esp. underwater and underground HV xmission), not just the simple I2R losses due to series wire resistance (corona also another issue). An RF guy can grasp this concept quite quickly, non-RF guys not so much … also consideration must be made for the RMS vs ‘peak’ AC voltage relationship, and for a not-so-insignificant portion of the AC waveform the ‘instantaneous’ voltage is far below the maximum the line is capable of carrying (not to mention that 3-phase -and three conductors- is mandatory for any sort of AC transmission; reasons not enumerated here) … not so with DC:

    “HVDC can carry more power per conductor because, for a given power rating, the constant voltage in a DC line is lower than the peak voltage in an AC line. The power delivered is defined by the root mean square (RMS) of an AC voltage, but RMS is only about 71% of the peak voltage. The peak voltage of AC determines the actual insulation thickness and conductor spacing. Because DC operates at a constant maximum voltage, this allows existing transmission line corridors with equally sized conductors and insulation to carry more power into an area of high power consumption than AC, which can lower costs.” – quick excerpt from wikip

    More: DC vs AC for power transmission: http://transmissiondesignhub.blogspot.com/2010/09/spotlight-high-voltage-direct-current.html

    .

  216. Oddity of the pacific intertie losing 25% of its power to heat is a direct result of the oddity of thought processes of Californians. We will not allow the power to be produced but we insist on being able to consume it when we so desire. New Hampshirites seem to be equally odd in their thinking.

  217. One other advantage of Very High Voltage DC over AC is that “all” of the AC current is carried through the three phase lines. If you look at the details of the (very expensive) DC terminal stations, you’ll see that many are “grounding” one side of the DC circuit. Thus, half the power isn’t carried through the lines. Which is good.

    However, now you face two very expensive AC_DC converter stations at each end of the line. And no practical way to “export” power from the HVDC lines between the two to nearby cities or intermediate commercial users. To do that, you need extra AC-DC converter stations mid-route – rather than very inexpensive substations and remote-operated controllers common to the already existing AC-AC grid.

    And each AC-DC station still required the power panels and transformers and operators and the AC-DC conversion losses – usually a net loss of 10+ percent. All going to wasted heat.

  218. racookpe1978 February 6, 2011 at 2:24 pm

    One other advantage of Very High Voltage DC over AC is that “all” of the AC current is carried through the three phase lines. If you look at the details of the (very expensive) DC terminal stations, you’ll see that many are “grounding” one side of the DC circuit.

    Path 65 has a provision to use one side as ‘return’ and the other line (path 65 has two actual overhead ‘lines’ and plus the system can and does make use of earth for ‘return’ while feeding the two overheads as ‘supply’) as supply. (What? Didn’t you read the references I posted?)

    I notice you ‘panned’ any gain DC has over AC (due to the sinusoidal waveform) which yields a considerable ‘dead’ or low voltage time as the waveform follows that sinusoidal curve, or the fact the AC waveform on a line has a peak 1.414 times that of the equivalent DC (RMS) necessitating higher working-voltage hardware for that entire HV transmission circuit.

    Now, pls give it a rest R. A. Cook Prof Eng, or we’ll be at this all night nitpicking and I haven’t even started yet … better yet, post something relevant on the recent ‘power event’ in Texas.

    On another subject, do you want to know what the ‘line slip’ (cumulative cycle-slipping b/c of the AC mains falling below 60 Hz for an extended time) was over the last four days?

    Here’s my data (my circuit was never cut as a part of the rolling blackouts so I was able to maintain ‘phase continuity’ with pre-blackout grid frequency):

    18 secs lagging, Wed morning
    13 secs lagging, Thurs
    11 secs lagging, Fri
    1 sec lagging, Sat *Recovered all lost cycles from Wed. event*
    3 secs lagging, Sun Slipped a little overnight, seen to recover during the day.

    .

  219. BillyBob says:
    February 5, 2011 at 11:24 pm

    “http://www.yomiuri.co.jp/dy/business/T110131002852.htm”

    They’re just surveying for methane ice deposits i.e. where and how much. The article explicitely states there is no way at this time to economically recover the methane as methane ice is unstable and only exists at low temperatures and high pressures. I reiterate – no one is even close to figuring out how to economically recover methane from methane ice.

    “Dave Springer: “What actually gets purchased and consumed is, on average, 10% of faceplate capacity.””

    “So the money to build the Tubines was squandered. As I thought.”

    Non sequitur. It means that most of the time cheaper sources of electricity (read natural gas and coal) are meeting total demand. I’ve never claimed that wind turbines were the least costly way to generate electricity.

    “Dave, the report damning wind farms is here:

    http://www.texasahead.org/tax_programs/chapter313/TEDA2010-96-1359.pdf

    No. This is a damning report on local school districts gaming the system. They are cutting tax abatement deals with primarily (66%) manufacturing companies and secondarily with renewable energy companies (33%). The reduction in school tax revenues is made up by school tax levelization where revenues from richer districts are shared with poorer districts. Some school districts in remote, rural areas who are already poor are making themselves poorer through these abatements and soaking the richer school districts for the difference. In addition to that they are getting remuneration from the companies getting the tax breaks in the form of payments made to local non-school programs and in this manner are effectively gaming the school tax revenue sharing program so that wealthier school districts in other states are funding non-school-related programs in the poorer districts.

    “Combs stated that the cost to the state per job is nearly $1.6 million, roughly 40 times more than the cost per job under the Texas Enterprise Fund”

    Yeah, that’s what happens when the system gets gamed as I described above. The local school districts in the rural wind farm locations are effectively robbing rich metropolitan school districts and putting the money into local projects that have nothing to do with either education or renewable energy.

    Combs made recommendations to the legislature on how to fix the system so it can’t be gamed in this manner. Note she didn’t recommend not giving school-tax breaks to renewable energy companies but rather fixing the loopholes that allow those districts to game the system to get money for non-educational and non-renewable energy projects.

  220. More on the new Luminant coal plants that failed: http://www.dallasnews.com/business/headlines/20110210-luminant-broken-coal-plants-lacked-winter-weather-experience.ece?action=reregister

    And I use “failed” in what I consider it’s common usage. As in…it was expected to work and didn’t. Mike must have a different definition, if he describes wind as “failing” 43% of the time.

    But let’s go with that…wind “fails” 43% of the time, yet we’ve had one near-blackout in 2008 because of it. The Luminant plants and a bunch others “failed” once and we get blackouts. I realize that correlation isn’t causation, but that’s a whole buncha correlation.

  221. Mike, in your OP, you wrote:

    Now, because of relying so much on wind power, the state is suffering blackouts.

    So, which is it? Is wind relied on or not?

    Why can’t you admit that your original premises were wrong? Once you get past it, you can write many posts as you’d like about how wind turbines are a lousy investment, a waste of resources, undeserving of subsidies, etc. , and you’d have a fighting chance to be on the right side of the argument.

  222. Bryan,

    Are you referring to the Mike Smith who wrote the original post at Meteorological Musings? If so, I don’t know what you are talking about. I have not posted on this blog since two days after I wrote the initial post. I have nothing to “get over.”

    There are at least two other posters with the name “Mike” and someone else who apparently is also named “Mike Smith.” I suspect that is where the confusion lies.

    Mike Smith of Meteorological Musings

  223. Too many Mikes. I post only as “Mike Jonas” – which is my real name – never just “Mike” or + anything else.

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