Most of Texas’s substantial wind power went off-line and natural gas couldn’t pick up the slack. From Tyler Durden at zerohedge.com:
With the worst of the Texas power crisis now behind us, the blame and fingerpointing begins, and while the jury is still out whose actions (or lack thereof) may have led to the deadly and widespread blackouts that shocked Texas this week, Cascend Strategy writes that “in case there was any doubt why the Texas grid collapsed, the data is clear”
- Wind failed as “Ice storms knocked out nearly half the wind-power generating capacity of Texas on Sunday as a massive deep freeze across the state locked up wind turbine generators, creating an electricity generation crisis.”
- Natural gas made up the difference for a while
- But then everything else followed down
Some more detail from Cascend which lays out the events of this week in sequence:
- A massive cold snap drove demand for electricity well beyond normal levels
- Wind power failed to deliver it’s expected power – almost 40% of expected power – in part due to lack of winterized wind turbines
Installing back up capacity for unusual peak loads is costly and during normal loads hurts utility profitability. From Planning Engineer at wattsupwiththat.com:
The story from some media sources is that frozen wind turbines are responsible for the power shortfalls in Texas. Other media sources emphasize that fossil fuel resources should shoulder the blame because they have large cold induced outages as well and also some natural gas plants could not obtain fuel.
Extreme cold should be expected to cause significant outages of both renewable and fossil fuel based resources. Why would anyone expect that sufficient amounts of natural gas would be available and deliverable to supply much needed generation? Considering the extreme cold, nothing particularly surprising is happening within any resource class in Texas. The technologies and their performance were well within the expected bounds of what could have been foreseen for such weather conditions. While some degradation should be expected, what is happening in Texas is a departure from what they should be experiencing. Who or what then is responsible for the shocking consequences produced by Texas’s run in with this recent bout of extreme cold?
Traditionally, responsibility for ensuring adequate capacity during extreme conditions has fallen upon individual utility providers. A couple decades ago I was responsible for the load forecasting, transmission planning and generation planning efforts of an electric cooperative in the southeastern US. My group’s projections, studies and analysis supported our plans to meet customer demand under forecasted peak load conditions. We had seen considerable growth in residential and commercial heat pumps. At colder temperature these units stop producing heat efficiently and switch to resistance heating which causes a spike in demand. Our forecasts showed that we would need to plan for extra capacity to meet this potential demand under extreme conditions in upcoming winters.