What Failed?

The snow and cold in Texas has been a disaster. That part of the country is simply not prepared for that kind of weather. I’m not even sure that New England, where I spent 45 years, would handle this situation well. Now it’s time to look at why the power went out, the water went out, etc. Admittedly, this was a hundred-year storm, but as those of us who live in hurricane zones know, you have to prepare for the hundred-year storm, regardless of what form it arrives in.

Just the News posted an article today citing some of the statistics that led to the epic failure of the power grid in Texas. There was failure in all areas of energy generation, but some were greater than others. Please follow the link to read the entire article.

The article reports:

A statewide blame game has accompanied the crisis, with numerous industries and commentators alleging that, variously, wind, solar, natural gas and coal failed to meet the surge in heating demand accompanying the cold snap. Yet federal data from the U.S. Energy Information Administration indicate that, of the state’s major energy sources, wind experienced the sharpest drop-off in energy production

The plunge in temperatures led to both a surge in heating demand and the concomitant power outages. Data from the EIA show that at nearly the exact same time demand was surging and energy grids were buckling, wind energy experienced a catastrophic drop-off: In the evening of Feb. 14, wind in the state was producing just over 9,000 MWh of energy, while 24 hours later it was putting out less than 800 MWh, a roughly 91% decrease in output.

Virtually every other energy industry in the state also saw decreased output over the same time period amid record demand, yet none saw as steep a decrease as did wind power. Natural gas, the state’s largest source of energy, saw a 23% decline in output, as did coal, the second-largest source. Nuclear, which competes with wind for third place, dropped 26%.

Texas has come to rely increasingly on wind power in recent years. The Texas Comptroller of Public Accounts said last August that the state’s usage of wind power has “more than quadrupled” since 2009, with wind rising to supply 20% of the state’s total energy needs in 2019. Coal power, meanwhile, declined from 37% of the state’s electricity generation in 2009 to 20% in 2019. 

The article concludes:

The natural gas losses could also be partly explained by wind production having plummeted so steeply in the initial cold snap and remained at low levels in subsequent days while natural gas rates remained relatively elevated. With natural gas producing so much more KWh relative to other fuels, it stands to reason that its role now in ongoing outages would likewise be disproportionately large.

A 30-day review of energy production in Texas shows that, while natural gas and wind energy were at times neck-and-neck in production rates throughout January and into mid-February, natural gas production skyrocketed following the cold snap while wind plummeted. 

Natural gas energy output in Texas hit a high on Feb. 15 before declining sharply in the following days, yet it still remained over 400% higher than it was on Feb. 7, compared to an overall 83% decrease in wind output.

The lesson here is that green energy always needs good back-up.