Texas’s Renewables: How Did the Problem Start? (Enron, Republicans Running Wild)

From MasterResource

By Robert Bradley Jr. — August 23, 2021

Ed. Note: This post from 12 years ago recounts the political origins of the Texas wind power boom. It is also the prehistory of the Great Texas Blackout of February 2021. Note that critics of Texas’s intervention warned of reliability problems.

“Texas is the nation’s leader in wind energy thanks to our long-term commitment to bolstering renewable energy sources and diversifying the state’s energy portfolio.”

– Rick Perry, Texas Governor

“Our representatives [in the Texas Legislature] now have less than six weeks to pass the best of nearly 100 bills that have been introduced on clean power and green jobs. These energy efficiency and renewable energy bills set the stage for rebuilding, repowering and renewing our state’s economy during tough times. They will build a sustainable future for Texas.”

– Sierra Club, Environmental Defense Fund, Public Citizen, April 2009

As reported by Russell Gold in the Wall Street Journal, (April 23, 2009), Texas, which has the strictest renewable energy mandate in the country, is about to increase its quota for the third time. Now the wind capital of the U.S., Texas’s new law would make the state a national solar leader as well.

Expensive and intermittent, wind- and solar-forcing will work only to increase electricity rates for captive consumers and reduce reliability on the grid. Taxpayers are on the hook as well.

In a 2008 study for the Texas Public Policy Foundation, “Texas Wind Energy: Past, Present, Future,” Drew Thornley concluded:

The distinction between wind and wind energy is critical. The wind itself is free, but wind energy is anything but. Cost estimates for wind-energy generation typically include only turbine construction and maintenance. Left out are many of wind energy’s costs—transmission, grid connection and management, and backup generation—that ultimately will be borne by Texas’ electric ratepayers. Direct subsidies, tax breaks, and increased production and ancillary costs associated with wind energy could cost Texas more than $4 billion per year and at least $60 billion through 2025.

How Did the Perverse Happen?

Government goes to those who show up. With utilities financially protected and not wanting to be labeled as anti-“green,” and principled taxpayer, consumer, and free-market groups vastly outmaneuvered, the interventionists have taken over. Full-time environmental activists and lobbyists for rent-seeking private companies have virtually unorganized opposition–a “Bootleggers and Baptists” scenario in the parlance of political economy.

How has Texas, which consumer choice made the leading oil and gas state, become the second most politicized energy state in the nation (after California)?

The regulatory spiral can be traced back  to Enron, which in 1999 spearheaded a provision in the state electricity restructuring law (Senate Bill 7, signed by governor George W. Bush) establishing a statewide renewable-energy mandate. Enron’s lobbyists had the special interest of Enron Wind Company (now GE Wind) in mind.

It was a double win for political powerhouse Enron. First, as the leading wholesale power marketer, and with its eye on becoming the leading electricity retailer, Enron coveted mandatory “last mile” open-access of electricity in the state.

Secondly, the company needed a big market for its money-losing Enron Wind. Cloaking both corporate-welfare goals in the guise of a renewable mandate got environmental groups and compliant media on board to help push SB 7 across the finish line.

The 1999/2005 Texas Mandates

The Texas Renewable Portfolio Standard was originally (SB7) for  2,000 megawatts of new qualifying capacity, but the 2005 Texas Legislature (SB 20) increased the mandate to 5,880 MW by 2015 and a target of 10,000 MW in 2025. Virtually all of this capacity has been wind power; the prospective (third) mandate would tack-on 3,000 of non-wind (read solar) renewable capacity.

The mechanics of the mandate are interesting. All electricity providers in the state–whether competitive retailers, municipal electric utilities, or electric cooperatives–must buy renewables based on the their market share of energy sales or utilize a Renewable Energy Credit trading program managed by the Electric Reliability Council of Texas (ERCOT). Thus, a utility in windy West Texas sells credits to those without access.

SB7, by the way, also mandated that at least 10 percent of an investor-owned utility’s annual growth in electricity demand be met through energy efficiency programs each year–politicization on the demand side. Expect more increases as well given the current politicized setup.

The Problem in Miniature: Lobbyist Spiel

Three environmental lobbyists working the Texas Legislature penned an Earth Day editorial in the Houston Chronicle, “Enact Energy Laws to Clear Air, Create Jobs. They are:

  • KEN KRAMER: director of the Lone Star Chapter of the Sierra Club
  • JIM MARSTON: director of the Texas regional offices of Environmental Defense Fund
  • TOM “SMITTY” SMITH: director of the Texas office of Public Citizen

Here is their something-for-nothing, everybody-wins, get-on-the-bandwagon editorial:

Texas citizens get it.

More of us than ever are mindful of switching off lights, weatherizing our homes and doing all that we can to save energy. State legislators can get it too. This session, they have an opportunity and responsibility to save us even more money on our electricity bills, create thousands of green jobs and reduce pollution across the state. Our representatives now have less than six weeks to pass the best of nearly 100 bills that have been introduced on clean power and green jobs. These energy efficiency and renewable energy bills set the stage for rebuilding, repowering and renewing our state’s economy during tough times. They will build a sustainable future for Texas.

The energy efficiency bills contain plans for helping Texas families by creating jobs while reducing consumption of electricity in our homes and buildings. When our homes and buildings are well-insulated and our appliances more efficient, we don’t need to burn wasteful and damaging amounts of dirty fossil fuels for electricity.

An additional benefit to creating Texas’ new clean energy economy is that we can clean up our air and address climate change at the same time. As we provide new jobs installing clean energy technologies, we can decrease the public health risks and costs associated with the impacts of burning coal.

Texas citizens began rising to the call for statewide energy efficiency when we voted with our consciences and our pocketbooks, replacing millions of our hot-burning, incandescent light bulbs with more efficient compact fluorescent light bulbs. Clearly, we were up to the challenge then and believe now that all of us can do more to help the Lone Star State.

For example, utilities can set more aggressive energy efficiency goals and put programs into place that will reduce the need to use so much electricity. The bills currently being considered in the Legislature require utilities to expand energy efficiency programs to meet 1 percent of peak electricity demand by the end of 2015 and 2 percent of peak electricity demand by 2020. While these goals may seem modest, meeting them would mean saving 1,176 megawatts of electricity — as much power as could be generated from two coal-fired power plants.

Utilities can also provide home energy audits that tell us how to increase our efficiency. Based on those audits, we can caulk or replace leaky windows, insulate our attics, repair our duct work, and install programmable thermostats, which allow us to preselect when we use our air conditioners, heaters and water heaters.

Cities can also help the energy efficiency cause by providing some up-front financing for energy-saving improvements. In addition, Texas will soon receive $327 million of federal stimulus funds for weatherization through the Texas Department of Housing & Community Affairs with reporting requirements on green job creation, energy savings and pollution reduction through the use of these funds.

These programs are good for Texas families. They’re good for the environment and they’re good for the economy. Study after study — including a report completed in December 2008 by the Public Utility Commission of Texas — shows that Texas can reduce its peak electricity demand and growth in electricity by 23 percent by implementing a variety of energy efficiency measures. The PUC study also found that every dollar spent by Texas on energy efficiency has a three-to-one payback.

But we need action now by Texas legislators to achieve energy efficiency’s full potential to meet our state’s energy challenges. This Legislature can and should continue the important work begun last session, when now-Speaker of the House Joe Straus led energy efficiency legislation.

Energy efficiency is the cheapest, quickest and cleanest way for Texas to meet its power needs. The Texas legislators who are championing these bills this session should be thanked for paving the way for a cleaner, sustainable future. We now call on all of our state legislators to swiftly move these bills out of committees and through floor debates to begin our sustainable future.

What about the costs of government energy-forcing? Instead of enlarging quota requirements, should Texas repeal mandates (these are not infant industries but mature ones that have promised viability for decades)? Blatantly anti-ratepayer, pro-corporate-welfare energy intervention in the post-Enron era deserves a reconsideration. As one study recently opined:

Over the past 10 years, Texas has become a leader in encouraging the development of renewable power. However, the aggressive build-out of wind power in West Texas is projected to drive up transmission costs [$4.9 billion for starters] for all Texans and create new reliability challenges.

Governor Rick Perry, do you really want Texas to be an Obama energy state? Just because George W. Bush started the mess does not mean you have to complete it.

Where will this case study of political capitalism end?

Is it past time for free-market, consumerist, taxpayer-friendly parties to show up to the “green energy” orgy. Texas lawmakers need counter-education and pressure against the likes of Ken Kramer, Jim Marston, and Smitty Smith.

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August 23, 2021 6:16 pm

Like all socialist programs, the Texas wind energy program had no real feedback from the market. As the subsidy mining wind power investors did not have to pay for the required conventional backup, they were able to screw conventional sources when the wind actually did blow. Republicans do socialism every bit as badly as Democrats.
The power system in Texas is why I spent most of a week last February with intermittent power, and no water.

griff
Reply to  Tom Halla
August 24, 2021 12:31 am

It isn’t ‘socialist’. Renewables aren’t ‘socialist’. climate science isn’t ‘socialist’.

The idea of labelling a set of things ‘socialist’ is unique to US Republican politics and has no basis in fact.

M Courtney
Reply to  griff
August 24, 2021 12:35 am

In fact the idea that Enron was controlled by politicians is exactly the wrong way round.

Tom Abbott
Reply to  M Courtney
August 24, 2021 5:03 am

Yes, the politicians and Enron were all in bed together.

Chaswarnertoo
Reply to  griff
August 24, 2021 1:00 am

Wrong again, griff climate ‘science’ is entirely collectivist and redistributative ie socialist/communist.

Reply to  griff
August 24, 2021 2:39 am

So what else do you term government mandated programs, especially those attempting to control the economy? BTW, fascism is a particular flavor of socialism.

Gerry, England
Reply to  griff
August 24, 2021 3:03 am

Ignorant rubbish as usual since it is the same in the UK where the Guardian/BBC perpetrate the lie that somehow the Conservative government is right wing when all of its policy would fit perfectly with the odious Blair and his New Labour. It is not possible to look at the NetZero lunacy and see anything other than a socialist command and control dictatorship, especially as the UK masquerades as a functioning democracy.

Tom Abbott
Reply to  Gerry, England
August 24, 2021 4:30 am

“It is not possible to look at the NetZero lunacy and see anything other than a socialist command and control dictatorship”

That’s right.

MarkW
Reply to  Gerry, England
August 24, 2021 8:31 am

Until recently, most of “right wing” politics in Europe, was to the left of even the Democrats in the US.

Tim Gorman
Reply to  griff
August 24, 2021 4:08 am

Jeesh, what do they teach in school today?

Fascism is the first step along Marx’s journey to Communism. It is government control of business and capital. It is then followed by actual government ownership of business and capital – Socialism. Socialism is then supposed to transition to Communism where business and capital is owned by the collective – but that never happens because government never willingly gives up its power.

Government politicians and bureaucrats today are always Fascists. It doesn’t matter what their party is.

Since Fascism is the first step toward Socialism I don’t think it is unreasonable to call what Texas policy about so-called “renewables” Socialism.

Frank from NoVA
Reply to  Tim Gorman
August 24, 2021 7:20 am

TG,

Good post, but I would respectfully quibble that fascism, communism, national socialism, etc. are all forms of socialism. One form does not follow another, and in fact, even the most virulent forms will ally themselves in a front against their common enemy, which is classical liberalism. As you note, the common thread in any socialist economy is collectivism, under which the state centrally controls the economy, whether by outright ownership of assets or through regulation thereof. I only bring this up because precise language is necessary to prevent the state, and its intellectual, corporate and media allies, from obscuring the adverse impact that socialism has on our lives, which is how so-called progressivism manages to thrive below the radar so to speak.

John Endicott
Reply to  Frank from NoVA
August 24, 2021 8:28 am

Indeed Frank. They’re all flavors of the same odious thing.

MarkW
Reply to  Frank from NoVA
August 24, 2021 8:33 am

Without control, ownership is just a worthless piece of paper.

When government bureaucrats make all of the important decisions, then government is the owner, regardless of what the “papers” say.

Frank from NoVA
Reply to  MarkW
August 24, 2021 9:41 am

Indeed! Do GM’s shareholders actually own anything when the ‘professional’ managers who ‘control’ the firm’s production state that they will phase out ICE powered vehicles in favor of EVs by 20XX? Certainly not if this decision has no basis in changing consumer preferences, but rather reflects the preferences of government bureaucrats.

Tim Gorman
Reply to  Frank from NoVA
August 26, 2021 3:12 pm

Shareholders can fire the professional managers at any time. They don’t have to wait for an election. If the company is being mis-managed the shareholders can file suit at any time.

Recall of politicians is much more difficult.

Tim Gorman
Reply to  Frank from NoVA
August 26, 2021 3:17 pm

They are not the same Frank. They are a journey along the path according to Marx. You need government control of business and capital in order to move to government ownership of business and capital. That or you do like Lenin and Stalin did and just do it by revolution and force. But then, Lenin and Stalin weren’t Marxists, they were Leninists and Stalinists.

But there will never be a true step to Communism. The Bureaucratic Hegemony built under Fascism and Socialism will never give up power once they have it. We are at that tipping point ourselves here in America. Try and get our Bureaucratic Hegemony to give up their power. Elected officials don’t run our government today, the Bureaucratic Hegemony does. Just ask Dr. Fauci.

JDNAustin
Reply to  Tim Gorman
August 26, 2021 12:46 pm

NIcely done, Tim. Because the nuances are such as they are, I have decided to boil the ‘isms’ down to Collectivism and Individual Freedom. I find that avoiding the nuances of Fascism/Socialism/Communism makes it easier for me to convey my point about government (collectivist) control versus individual freedom.

I live in Austin and was without power for four days in Februrary 2021. Luckily, I have natural gas for cooking and hot water and was able to keep my house relatively warm and never ran out of hot water. It was, in fact, natural gas output that kept Texas from a complete blackout.

The Texas renewables initiative is not only Collectivist, wind and other renewable projects simply cannot stand on their own market feet without subsidies. I’m guessing the Germans would agree …

Tom Abbott
Reply to  griff
August 24, 2021 5:02 am

“It isn’t ‘socialist’. Renewables aren’t ‘socialist’. climate science isn’t ‘socialist’.”

You are missing the point, Griff. It’s not being claimed that “renewables” are socialist. The claim is that “renewables” are being used by politicians of the socialist persuasion to further their political goals of imposing more and more control on the rest of us.

Last edited 1 month ago by Tom Abbott
MarkW
Reply to  Tom Abbott
August 24, 2021 8:33 am

He’s not missing the point. He’s obscuring it.

MarkW
Reply to  griff
August 24, 2021 8:29 am

Nobody said that climate science is socialism.
It’s just that climate scientists use CO2 as an excuse to impose socialism.

Using government to force everyone to subsidize renewable power is definitely socialism.

Declaring that everything to the right of communism is right wing is unique to European politics.

Robert of Texas
Reply to  MarkW
August 24, 2021 12:17 pm

“Nobody said that climate science is socialism.”

But I have and will keep saying that “climate science” is not scientific.

Brooks H Hurd
Reply to  griff
August 24, 2021 8:47 am

Climate Science is more closely aligned with religious zeal than with actual science. Evaluation of renewables by proponents is almost always incomplete.

Nuclear and fossil fuel power generation have been fully evaluated from cradle to grave. All aspects of these processes are well known and used to evaluate new projects. Typically one or 2 aspects of fossil or nuclear projects are focused upon by opponents to stop dead these projects.

I would love to see the same sort of cradle to grave analysis conducted by renewable proponents on wind and solar projects. This analysis would need to consider mining, manufacturing, transportation, land acquisition, installation, maintenance, back up power costs, decommissioning, demolition and disposal. This analysis would arrive at a total project cost. The next step would be to prepare a realistic estimate of the kWhours of power production over the realistic lifetime of the project. If these calculations are complete and honest, one can calculate a realistic estimate of the cost per kWhr for a renewable project. This is the number which impacts consumers.

Carbon Bigfoot
Reply to  Tom Halla
August 24, 2021 8:48 am

I recall Oil Millionaire Boone Pickens appeared routinely on CNBC’s Squawk Box when Mark Haines was moderator ( 80s-90s ). If my old brain is still functioning he was one that was instrumental in its birthing and investment.

August 23, 2021 6:31 pm

I remember reading about Ol’ Boone Pickens saying huge wind farms oughta be built in the Texas Panhandle and Oklahoma area known for wind come roaring down the plain….and changing the diesel truck fleet over to natural gas engines….of course Ol’ Boone was not an “Oil” man…he was a money man…in particular…money for him. Yeah, Ol’ Boone said that electricity could power Houston and Dallas…..huge power lines would bring it in, see?

Mike McMillan
Reply to  Anti_griff
August 23, 2021 9:33 pm

Huge power lines also bring right-of-way, which he needed to pipeline his Ogallala Aquifer water to the Dallas metro area.

ATheoK
Reply to  Anti_griff
August 24, 2021 12:55 am

T. Boone Pickens was an early convert to the wind lobby.
To T. Boone it was a huge open field industry waiting to be squeezed for cash.

Every week, the stock information news sites had video interviews with T. Boone where he plugged investing in more wind installations.
Nothing was ever said about total costs to build or life cycles costs that included maintenance, replacement and disposal.

Many people believed T. Boone and dumped their savings into the industry. They then howled most quarters about their lack of return on investment.

That was before states and communities started guaranteeing payments for electricity.

mkelly
Reply to  Anti_griff
August 24, 2021 3:38 am

Exactly right. Pickens appeared on CNBC a number of times and he often talked about how putting up wind mills was a good idea.

Planning Engineer
Reply to  Anti_griff
August 25, 2021 11:13 am

Boone dropped out of wind largely because his original enthusiasm was driven by Hugh expected natural gas prices. When gas went down instead of up he was smart enough to let his wind dreams go.

Steve Case
August 23, 2021 7:00 pm

It’s this right here:

Cost estimates for wind-energy generation typically include only turbine construction and maintenance. Left out are many of wind energy’s costs—transmission, grid connection and management, and backup generation.

True in in the 2008 study and true today.

John Dueker
Reply to  Steve Case
August 23, 2021 11:36 pm

I was fortunate to leave Texas when Rick Perry became governor and returned just when he was leaving office.

Only to become a victim of his renewable fiasco this year. The dumb things signed into law persist for a very long time.

Tom Abbott
Reply to  Steve Case
August 24, 2021 4:37 am

We also need to include the cost of subsidies, and their ramifications for other types of energy producers, Without subsidies, there would be no windmills.

My State stopped paying subsidies to new windmill installations last year. Our legislators said if we continued down that path, it would bankrupt the State.

The Feds are still paying for subsidies.

Windmills and Solar should stand on their own, without subsidies, or they shouldn’t be built.

Last edited 1 month ago by Tom Abbott
AGW is Not Science
Reply to  Tom Abbott
August 24, 2021 7:59 am

If only that principle was followed from Day 1, the country wouldn’t be littered with ugly wind farms and solar farms, a lot of birds and bats would not have been killed, our electric grid would be more reliable and our electric bills lower.

RobK
August 23, 2021 7:34 pm

The point that often seems to be over looked is that transmission of RE has to be sized for opportunistic maximum production which is only delivered sporadically. The total utility of the investment is focused on the producer not the customers demand. At 20-30% of nameplate as an average production, the transmission lines are woefully heavy in cost and materials. Utilisation will, by definition be dismal. Who would want to pay for such a thing. These costs were known from the outset but were ignored whilst low penetration RE was absorbed into an existing robust grid.

Reply to  RobK
August 24, 2021 12:28 am

Yes. A point overlooked by almost everyone because they do not understand it, yet obvious to any design engineer who has a remit to produce economic kit.

The good things from technology come from the average output of its desired product over its lifetime, The capital costs are, however, 99% in dealing with the worst cases.

Nuclear power beats wind hands down because it is 97% available and it runs at its name plate capacity all the time, and the wires used to plug it into the grid are both short, and fully utilised, and the capital costs are amortised over that 60 year lifetime at that 97% availability.

Saying that a 2GW wind farm is no more expensive than a 2GW reactor begs the question of how much it actually produces over its lifetime. 20 years at 30% instead of 60 years at 85%. The ‘same priced nuke’ produces 9 times as much electricity, and needs no ‘backup’ nor any battery…nor any long wires.

Robert of Texas
Reply to  Leo Smith
August 24, 2021 12:23 pm

“Saying that a 2GW wind farm is no more expensive than a 2GW reactor begs the question of how much it actually produces over its lifetime.”

Not just how much but “when was it producing? Intermittent power is almost useless to most consumers. I don’t want to cool my house 90% of the time, and a steel mill does not want to run it’s furnaces 70% of the time.

Capacity should be measured in what can be reasonably guaranteed to be delivered. Having scheduled maintenance once a year is fine. Having random peaks and slumps every day is not.

niceguy
Reply to  Robert of Texas
August 24, 2021 2:50 pm

Intermittent is fine if you have a water pump and a huuuuuge water storage high in the air, and if … well that’s it. That’s the use case.

niceguy
Reply to  Leo Smith
August 24, 2021 7:12 pm

And when a reactor isn’t available, in most cases all others on site are. When others aren’t available, it’s caused by a local disaster (like a flood, an oil spill, a jellyfish invasion… ) and it’s a local issue.
Remote sites aren’t stopped at the same time.

Except of course:

  • extreme cold wave for plants designed for warm weather,
  • ice in water (solved by carefully planted explosives – call the army!)
  • hot wave for plants with small hot margins

And all these incidents also disturb all other thermal plants.

There is no specific dependency on atomic energy. There is a dependency on clean sea water, a moderately warm river, not too hot weather, like many other industrial plants; and these dependencies can be reduced.

It means you can’t have a grid too dependent on fission, because it isn’t a thing.
Like you can’t have a radio transmitter “dependent on sin(x) being periodic”. It isn’t a dependency.

The only issue is public acceptability, which like every anthropological phenomenon is a function of public discourse and not a fundamental property of nature. Thus the acceptability can’t be discussed in a classical scientific way.

H. D. Hoese
August 23, 2021 8:10 pm

I just passed today one of the trucks with a turbine headed north at the end of the HWY 35 bypass in Fulton (adjacent N of Rockport of Harvey fame, used to be a famous bird center). This is a bottleneck because of hangups from extending it by the airport. Not the first, but this is new, don’t know where they are going but the farthest north I have seen them on the coast is S of Bayside and SW of Woodsboro (a little above 28 degrees N). They show up on Google Earth and four fields are currently evident on Corpus Christi radar. Some came their port, but these come from the port of Harbor Island by Port Aransas, quite an experience to pass one with a blade. Last week a truck (at least the blade looked intact) with one coming from there was broken down on its way to Aransas Pass, with cops on each end takes quite a parade. Blades probably couldn’t (or shouldn’t) make the bottleneck and apparently haven’t been seen N of Aransas Pass yet on 35.

Fortunately this summer so far has been cloudy, windy and cool enough, but may not last. I think the fields in south central coastal Texas all probably stopped during the freeze from lack of wind, at least some were so reported when the wind died. This movement is in the direction of the Aransas Wildlife Refuge with the whoopers, so serious industrial activity near there cannot be done in the winter when they are foraging quite widely. That is not the worst problem, a U-haul it packed with illegals suffocating was just caught on a major escape route (HWY 77) in Refugio just N of Woodsboro. Texas has its problems. Wind on average decreases going up the coast. Send us a defense for the “Environmental Defense Fund.” Or teach them about wind. Might require legal action.

Paul Johnson
August 23, 2021 9:47 pm

Keep in mind that all this pre-dates 2014 and reflects the consensus view of increasing scarcity of oil & gas and increasing dependence on foreign sources with ever-increasing energy prices. Hydraulic fracturing changed all that, but the “alternative energy” interests have now become deeply entrenched under the guise of “renewable energy”.

Tom Abbott
Reply to  Paul Johnson
August 24, 2021 4:41 am

Excellent point, Paul.

Spetzer86
Reply to  Paul Johnson
August 24, 2021 5:32 am

Fracking only allows more yield when fracking itself is allowed. Ban fracking and other domestic exploration/production and you’ll likely be having problems.

griff
August 24, 2021 12:30 am

There isn’t a Taxan renewable problem.

There is a problem of a Texan fossil fuel based power industry unwilling to act on recommendations about ensuring the winter reliability of its fossil fuel infrastructure.

Chaswarnertoo
Reply to  griff
August 24, 2021 1:02 am

You just keep pumping those lies out, genius.

Tom Abbott
Reply to  Chaswarnertoo
August 24, 2021 4:43 am

Griff is trying to mimic the UN IPCC: All unsubstantiated assertions, all the time.

Tom Abbott
Reply to  griff
August 24, 2021 4:48 am

The windmills were not turning, Griff. If the windmills had been turning, there would not have been blackouts in Texas.

But windmills don’t work too well in freezing conditions or in conditions where the wind becomes becalmed for days at a time.

These problems with windmills cannot be fixed. Everytime this condition arrives, the windmills will stop working. We can’t prevent high-pressure systems from settling down upon us, so we can’t prevent windmills from stopping when the wind quits blowing. Adding additional windmills to the system will not fix this problem.

We *can* fix the fossil fuel infrastructure so it doesn’t stop under similiar conditions.

Last edited 1 month ago by Tom Abbott
LdB
Reply to  griff
August 24, 2021 5:43 am

Griff just went full retard

John Endicott
Reply to  LdB
August 24, 2021 8:33 am

Just? he’s been there a long, long time already.

MarkW
Reply to  LdB
August 24, 2021 8:42 am

He’s been living there for years.

AGW is Not Science
Reply to  griff
August 24, 2021 8:40 am

This was the expected propaganda the “media” immediately put forth when the Texas grid face-planted in February, the notion that the “problem” was one of “winterization” as opposed to being related to the amount of wind power Texas had come to rely upon.

The face-planting of their wind power, roughly 30% of their entire generating capacity, was the domino that knocked everything else down. The sudden loss of wind caused other plants to shut down in two ways: first, the sudden drop off in generation caused other plants to shut down to protect themselves from damage, and second, because the politically motivated stupidity of requiring electric be used for compression of natural gas in the natural gas pipelines, as opposed to using natural gas, the supply of which would have been uninterrupted, meant that they were relying on electric from wind (which failed) or from other plants (shutting down to protect themselves from damage due to the sudden drop off of 30% of generation in pretty much an eye blink), and the natural gas plants therefore ceased to receive an adequate supply of fuel.

If the wind power isn’t being relied upon for 30% of generation, the coal, gas and nuclear plants, which are “thermal” plants generating plenty of heat, would have continued to operate without incident. “Winterization” issues came into play only because of the shutdowns triggered by the mass failure of wind generation all at once, resulting in emergency protective shutdowns of thermal plants, and the failure of fuel deliveries to gas fired plants.

If you think the Texas grid reliance on wind power had nothing to do with their February blackouts, you are either deluded, willfully ignorant or an idiot. So where do you fall?

Reply to  AGW is Not Science
August 25, 2021 8:25 am

Electric compressors on a natural gas pipeline, wow, what could go wrong? My sister and her man were in the dark and cold for a week in Austin. The bums who ran this system will be voted out ASAP!

MarkW
Reply to  griff
August 24, 2021 8:41 am

All of those lies were dealt with the last time you spewed them.

The problems were caused by the CO2 nonsense. The EPA required the pumps that pressurize the gas line to be run from the grid, instead of from the gas lines themselves. When the grid collapsed because wind and solar cut out, then the pressure in the gas lines dropped and that is what caused the natural gas power stations to start dropping out.

Reply to  griff
August 24, 2021 10:26 am

Griff, we in Texas had nearly three days of freezing rain, and no windmill deicing system could possibly handle that, so the windmills were definitely down.
The next issue was using air source heat pumps, which radically increase power drain at low temperatures.
The windmills, which did not have to pay for backup power, displaced conventional power plants, with the remainder having to take up a radically increased load.
Of course, there were some problems, like not insulating some gas lines, and silly as green measures, like using electric compressors on gas pipelines.
Greens like wind and solar because they do not work.

Robert of Texas
Reply to  griff
August 24, 2021 12:31 pm

Never mind over 50% of the wind turbines were offline during the freeze, and then the wind fell way off by the second day so wind production of the remaining wind turbines plummeted. Never mind that because of the EPA regulations the very reliable gas-driven heaters were replaced by electric heaters on many gas lines and wells, and ERCOT had many of those turned off as part of their power conservation effort. Never mind that ERCOT sent out a notice to many fossil fuel production sites telling them to stand down on the day before the freeze. Never mind that fossil fuel driven power production that was quickly ramped up is all the SAVED many thousands of Texan lives.

Yes, we need more renewables…that is obviously the conclusion a lunatic would reach.

Paul Johnson
Reply to  griff
August 24, 2021 2:48 pm

During the February 2021 Big Chill, many fossil fuel plants shut down, but so did South Texas Nuclear Unit 1. That may seem like another failure of winterization since nuclear plants in much colder regions continued to operate. It was actually a failure of the design criteria that was set by the federal Nuclear Regulatory Commission; not the Operator or the State. The NRC design criteria simply did not anticipate the conditions that STN1, and many others, experienced. Unprecedented means unprecedented.

Ragnaar
Reply to  griff
August 25, 2021 12:00 pm

Griff is right you fake free market people. The Republicans let the renewables in. It’s their fault. The Republicans said, build it, here’s money. And they built it.

JDNAustin
Reply to  griff
August 26, 2021 2:35 pm

The problem with your statement, griff, is that all anyone interested in understanding what actually occurred has to do is go to the ERCOT website and look at the Fuel Mix Report for 2021, which details grid generation output by source. For your convenience, I have included the link below.

The problem goes beyond freezing temperatures because when the front blew through, there was no wind for the turbines. In point of fact, natural gas output increased by over 400% and single-handedly kept Texas from a total blackout. A similar event also occurred in June when absence of wind in West Texas dropped wind output significantly.

These are events of basic physics: When the wind don’t blow, turbines don’t turn. When the sun don’t shine, solar cells don’t convert.

How we (I live in Austin) got here is part political and part crony-corporatism. But that doesn’t change the significant physics limitations of our renewables installations. They’re not reliable. End-of-story.

http://www.ercot.com/content/wcm/lists/181766/IntGenbyFuel2021.xlsx

Charlie
August 24, 2021 2:04 am

‘Green jobs’ raises its ugly head in the article. According to MasterResource, from 2006 to 2019, wind and solar generators in Texas received about $19.4 billion in subsidies and benefits from taxpayers and consumers. A quick look tells me that the wind industry in Texas employs around 25,000 people and the solar industry around 9,000. That comes to $570,588 per green job so far.

Tom Abbott
Reply to  Charlie
August 24, 2021 4:58 am

Nice work if you can get it!

Trying to force windmills and solar on the world is wasting $Trillions of dollars worldwide. All for naught.

Spetzer86
Reply to  Charlie
August 24, 2021 5:34 am

Making systems less efficient by adding jobs for the same level of production will never lead to decreased costs. Maybe a variant of the broken windows concept?

AGW is Not Science
Reply to  Charlie
August 24, 2021 8:44 am

Of course, contrary to the socialist mantra, that “green” doesn’t get “distributed” to the worker bees, who don’t do “high value” work and therefore don’t earn “high dollar” wages. It’s all about making the rent seekers rich at the expense of everyone else.

Mike Ozanne
August 24, 2021 2:17 am

Gee I wonder what else we could sell them…

Gregory Woods
Reply to  Mike Ozanne
August 24, 2021 7:14 am

I don’t believe that centurys’ old technology is ever ‘economical’…just which fuel made these windy whirlygigs possible?

Editor
August 24, 2021 5:14 am

Hindsight is always 20:20.

When the state legislature established the Competitive Renewable Energy Zones (CREZ) in 2005 to fund transmission lines from the abundant wind resource areas in West Texas to the population centers (DFW, Austin, San Antonio, Houston, etc.) the US was a net importer of natural gas, importing 3.6 Tcf in 2005, and the price was nearly $9/mcf.

Now we are exporting natural gas and the price has been below $4/mcf most of the time since 2009.

CREZ made sense in 2005. It made sense up until the shale boom flooded the market with natural gas.

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Redge
Reply to  David Middleton
August 24, 2021 11:35 am

Hindsight is always 20:20.

Not for the watermelons

Or maybe it is

Red94ViperRT10
Reply to  David Middleton
August 24, 2021 1:23 pm

CREZ never made sense. Eliminate subsidies and insist that every RE analysis includes the cost of backup (just as I learned as an undergraduate) and no proposal that includes unreliable RE would ever win out over a proposal that employs 100% reliable sources.

Jeffery P
August 24, 2021 8:03 am

Ditto on T. Boone Pickens. He spent a lot of money lobbying for wind power. He had a fantasy that more wind energy meant less oil purchased from often unfriendly countries. In fact, his TV commercials used the term as “transfer of wealth.” No, purchasing a needed product is not a transfer. It’s a market transaction, but I digress.

I believe that T. Boone Pickens held a lot of sway in Texas, back in his day.

Reply to  Jeffery P
August 24, 2021 10:51 am

People definitely listened when he opined. The Pickens Plan would have replaced imported oil with natural gas and generated as much electricity as possible from wind power. It almost made sense at the time he proposed it.

At the time (2008), oil was $100/bbl, natural gas was still expensive, but the shale boom was just starting.

Pickens was a shrewd businessman; but not a very good fortune teller…

Pickens: Brent crude will be above $100 forever
TUE, AUG 19 2014

James N.
August 24, 2021 11:20 am

The City of Austin owns its own retail electrical utility. Not too many years ago, Austin joined the renewable investment fun. They wasted close to a billion dollars on a renewable electrical generation facility that has to date, never generated any power, and likely never will. The money “invested” is a complete loss. There were no consequences to the city council and mayor who foisted this boondoggle on the Austin/Travis County rate electric payers.

https://texasmonitor.org/austin-buying-back-biomass-plant-at-a-painful-price/

Robert of Texas
Reply to  James N.
August 24, 2021 12:35 pm

Voters who vote for raving lunatics are generally not the sharpest tools in the shed. They vote for “who they like” rather than for “who gets things done”. Biden is a perfect example.

JDNAustin
Reply to  James N.
August 26, 2021 2:44 pm

I live in Austin…there’s a reason people here are called ‘Slackers.’ The mayor and city council were elected by less than 20% of the registered voters, and that’s high for local elections. Austin is a monument to the reality that higher education does not, necessarily, result in greater civic participation and/or responsibility. Dell started in Austin proper and was driven to Round Rock by the morons in this city’s government. Round Rock’s school district is now the envy of the state.

Shudong Zhou
August 24, 2021 8:57 pm

Wind power, photovoltaics are vampires and parasites dependent on reliable power supply!

Ragnaar
August 25, 2021 11:56 am

This is the Republicans fault. Because they don’t really believe in markets if it means they will not get elected. Why didn’t they stop this nonsense when Trump was in office?

willem post
August 25, 2021 3:28 pm

Here is an example of RE folks getting what thy want, i.e., get rid of those evil fossil fuels, and dangerous nuclear, and replace it all with wind and solar.
God, please help us.

WIND AND SOLAR PROVIDE 50 PERCENT OF FUTURE NEW ENGLAND ELECTRICITY CONSUMPTION
https://www.windtaskforce.org/profiles/blogs/wind-and-solar-provide-50-percent-of-future-new-england

RE folks often advocate wind and solar must provide at least 50% of the load of the NE grid.
This article provides an easy-to-understand analysis of what would be required for battery storage systems during multi-day wind/solar lulls

Production Data: ISO-NE, the NE grid operator, provides minute-by-minute electricity production data from gas, nuclear, hydro, wind, solar, biomass, etc., loaded by producers onto the NE grid. The data can be downloaded. Graphs can be prepared for each year. 

Production Shortfall due to Wind/Solar Lulls: The graphs show periods when the sum of wind/solar production is only about 15% of what would be the average production for that time of year. Such wind/solar lull periods occur, at random, throughout the year, and may last up to 5 to 7 days. A second, usually shorter lull, may follow a few days later.

The annual average load on the NE grid from:

All sources production is about 115 billion kWh, or 0.315 billion kWh/d, or 1.890 billion kWh for 6-days
Wind/solar production, at a future date, would be 50% x 1.890 = 0.945 billion kWh for 6 days
Wind/solar, during a 6-day lull, would be 15% x 0.945 = 0.142 billion kWh for 6 days
Wind/solar shortfall would be 0.945 – 0.142 = 0.803 billion kWh for 6 days

Battery Systems to Provide the Shortfall: Batteries must not be discharged to less than 10% and not be charged above 90%, to achieve long service life. 

The battery would have to be 100% full at the start of the wind/solar lull (highly unlikely), to draw 80% of rated capacity, to provide the shortfall. 

A battery “fullness” of 75% would be more likely, i.e., 75 – 10 = 65% of rated capacity would be available to provide the shortfall

The battery rated capacity would be at least 0.803, shortfall /0.65, available withdrawal x 1.01, transformer loss = 1.248 billion kWh, delivered as high voltage AC to the NE grid. 

A Second Wind/Solar Lull: The battery systems would be empty after the 6-day lull. 
If a second lull would occur a few days later, existing sources would not have been able to fill the battery in those few days, i.e., a second battery, of similar capacity, would be needed.

Battery-system aging, under year-round, 24/7/365, 8766-hour/y utility service, would be at least 1.5%/y
Their capacity reduction would be at least 10%, at the 7-y mid-life, and at least 19%, at the 14-y near-end-life.

Turnkey Capital Cost of Battery Systems: The turnkey capital cost of the battery systems would be about 1.248 x $500/kWh = $624 billion, for site-specific, custom-designed, utility-grade battery systems.

The systems would need to be, all or partially, replaced every 15 years. Such systems are not comparable to mass-produced battery packs for electric vehicles that are used, at most, about 700 hours per year. 

Alternatives to Battery Systems: As an alternative, a spare capacity of 7520 MW of combined-cycle, gas-turbine plants (staffed, fueled, ready to produce), operating at an average output of 75%, could feed the NE grid 1000 kWh/MW x 7520 MW x 0.75 x (24 x 6) hours x 1/1.01, transformer loss = 0.804 billion kWh for 6 days, slightly more than the above shortfall. 

Some of the shortfall could be provided by: 1) ramping up the outputs of other sources, and 2) curtailments, i.e., demand shifting/shedding, and 3) rolling blackouts, i.e., more severe demand shifting/shedding.

Bonus: The CCGT plants could easily provide any shortfall, due to a second solar/wind lull, occurring shortly after the first lull.

Turnkey capital cost of the CCGT plants would be about 7520 MW x $1000000/MW = $7.52 billion
They would last at least 40 years.

Sheri
September 2, 2021 4:41 am

Wind and solar are gold rushes and the gold comes from taxpayers and crony capitalism. Hand out money to the already rich and you have and endless line of takers. Unfortunately, unlike gold, taxpayer robbery is increasing in supply and is so easy to get. At least one eventually had to use heavy equipment to mine gold. The societal damage and environmental damage are the same, but the wind and solar gold rushes have much deeper pockets than the original gold rush. It’s all greed and it never ends. It’s just what humans do.

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