1. The wind power people are saying wind was supplying 3-4 GW during the time ( http://www.masterresource.org/2011/02/texas-winter-power-outages-ercot/ ) and was not responsible. I wonder how this ties in with their natural gas backup – there was a natural gas shortage, low pressure in the pipelines etc.. My bottom line is that even if wind power did not cause it, it is not an “on demand” energy source and therefore could not be increased to 100% capacity to help the grid. If we continue to go down the road of green energy, we will see more and more of such weather related power outages as old plants are gradually retired and replaced with unreliable wind and solar.

    2. To suggest these outages have anything to do with wind is ludicrous! 50 power plants were taken off-line by cold, broken water pipes, and low pressure supply lines to natural gas plants (for a loss of more than 7,000 MW capacity). Lt. Gov said outages should never have happened, and that grid was operating at nowhere near peak capacity (here). ERCOT had some 624 MW of wind flowing into grid at time (if reports are accurate), representing some 1.2% of total load. ERCOT has load reports here. It looks to me the source of the problem is right there in the article, poor planing and go your own way “Texas pride” keeping its grid isolated from rest of the US and outside the reach of “restrictive” federal regs. In this case, it’s those restrictive federal regs that may have saved the day and kept the lights on during rolling black outs. If anything, we should be talking about the low reliability of natural gas, and over-reliance on a single fuel source.

      1. El, of course it has to do with wind unreliability. the wind investors don’t want to build wind mills close to Texas electrical markets. They wind investors say that the winds in the well populated areas of Texas don’t cut the mustard. Even if the winds were better, it is still impossible to produce electricity on demand with wind generators. Texas wind generators don’t operate at anything like 100% of capacity, or even 50% on average. Not being in the right location, and not operating at 100% of capacity almost all of the time are big problems with wind, which the slick wind spin doctors like you try to hide.

      2. My post’s intent was to compare the CF of wind vs. nuclear during a time of critical need (ie 100% to something likely in the 0-30% range). Not to specifically blame the generation issues on wind.

  1. Here in southern NM, wer have rolling blackouts because two major El Paso Electric (EPE) power plants are offline: Rio Grande power plant with 3 NG-fired steam cycle units totalling 246 MW and Newman Power Station with 3 Ng-fired steam units and one combined-cycle gas turbine unit totalling 474 MW. All of these unit use forced draft cooling towers for condensing the steam. EPE has been very non-specific about their problems, other than to say that they are having problems with the low temperatures (sub-zero in El Paso Feb 2nd overnight) and that it is causing problems with their instrumentation. In a short discussion with a retired surface nuc MM who also lives in Las Cruces, we’re surmising that the tubing to mechanical pressure gauges and the makeup water system are freezing, and the cooling towers are icing up preventing air flow. EPE is having to buy power on the spot market. This is the coldest I’ve seen it here. We usually will drop into the mid 20’s to upper teens at night, but then warm back up to the 40’s to 50’s during the day. We have now been below freezing for about 60 hours, and supposed to barely get above freezing Friday Feb 4 afternoon before dropping again into the mid-teens overnight. For those people unfamiliar with Texas power, EPE is not part of ERCOT.
    Complicating matters is that NG pressure is low. It is being attrributed to compressor stations in Texas losing power.

    1. Charles. You should look a little more closely at the source you provide for wind variability and contribution to blackout. It’s not the Lubbock Avalanche Journal, but a community blog hosted by “a member” on the site (who calls himself “Mr. Conservative”). He doesn’t add anything to reporting to date other than vague speculation that wind doesn’t work well when it’s cold (and despite evidence that it did work

      1. “It basically points to the risk of aging or poorly maintained machinery (such as the coal plants) …”
        The coal plants were fairly new, so age is not likely to be the problem (certainly it’s less likely a culprit than the variable output from the wind turbines). There is some speculation that the new emission control systems on these fairly new plants were having trouble with the cold weather.

      2. El, I go by the name on the Masthead, which was Lubbock Avalanche Journal. As for wind, this is not even an issue of capacity because Most Texas wind generators were too far from the areas effected by the blackout to have made a difference in the generation capacity shortage, and the transmission lines do not currently exist. But even if the transmissions lines existed, the wind was not blowing hard enough to produce electricity at half the Texas rated wind capacity, which happened to be about half of the electricity actually needed. That does not get Texas Wind off the hook as far as a drop in wind power, because the problem is than even when preforming as expected, wind generators only preform at a fraction of their rated capacity, verses the 100% of capacity output from Texas nuclear power plants.
        As for the drop in natural gas pressure, your suggestion that it was caused by a deliberate decision seems unlikely. It is far more likely that the drop in gas pressure was caused by an limited gas supply that was not equal to Texas gas demands on February 2. Since many wind deployment plans call for natural gas backup, the possibility that natural gas shortages can occur in well supplied markets suggests that wind-gas systems are not the royal road to electrical reliability.

        1. Yes, this gas supply issue is a huge mess! It extends far beyond the Ercot region to 30,000 residential customers losing natural gas service in New Mexico, and non-core curtailment extending to California. From the LA Times story:
          in order to restore gas service, technicians must manually shut off the meter at each home before repressurizing the mains. Then, a technician must restore service at the meter and light appliance pilot lights. As many as 400 technicians from out of state, along with local plumbers and pipe-fitters, were joining gas company workers in getting service restored, he said.
          For an unconventional view at what may have contributed to this issue, take a look here. Bill Marcus considers cost allocation and rate design in a partially deregulated gas market. If this is the case, putting focus on a compressor station in Texas, faulty weatherization of emissions control equipment, maintenance draw downs, or even wind (which delivered a steady 7%), is a distraction.

          1. @EL – do you have information about the actual production of wind during the times of grid stress? Before I can agree or disagree with your statement about wind providing a “steady 7%” I need to understand what it really provided during each interval of time. As we all know, there is no storage system for electricity currently in place, so all loads and supply need to be perfectly balanced at all times. If the system is operating right at the edge of its capacity and the wind velocity drops for 10 minutes, the only possible response is to shed some loads for that period.
            I do not know if this happened or not, but I can look through the historical records at the Bonneville Power Authority for some pretty good graphs of the way a distributed wind generation system works and it certainly does not look all that steady to me. I continue to try to find similar information from ERCOT that covers the period of time in question.
            The maintenance issues at many fossil fuel plants are another part of the complex story. In a market driven system like the one existing in Texas, it can be profitable to short shrift your maintenance and operational budget and accept a slight hit in reliability. What is the real cost to the merchant generators of not being available when really needed? Would there be any financial benefit to them as a result of spending more money to keep the plant conditions above the minimum?
            Do any of the fossil units have anything remotely similar to a “maintenance rule” or two resident inspectors?

            1. Rod – A more useful statistic would be the actual production of wind before the times of grid stress. When similar problems occured three years ago, wind production fell by 1400 MW just before the event, which lead to the emergency.
              If wind production had fallen by 1000 MW, 2000 MW, or more that evening, it would go a long way to explain why multiple fossil-fuel plants suddenly failed at the same time.
              Not surprisingly, I haven’t seen anyone publishing those statistics. We only get hints as to how much wind was “available” after the fecal matter impacted the rotary oscillator.

              1. @Brian – you are correct. What I really want is access to the same kind of grid supply information as is posted on the BPA balancing authority web site. The effects of wind before, during and right after the periods of stress are important. The typical “smoothing” reports that get released from the wind promoters just do not tell the tale of how challenging control can be when there is a varying supply feeding the grid at a time of little reserve margin.

          2. @EL
            Shutting off each individual house and having gas technicians restoring the gas pressure is necessary from a safety standpoint. Houses have been known to blow up with their occupants inside if qualified technicians did not properly restore gas pressure once a gas main has been depressurized for whatever reason as mentioned in the link from Mr. Marcus you provided. So not sure what point you are trying to make by singling out that one comment from the LA times article.
            Moreover, Mr. Marcus’s viewpoint is not unconventional in the energy circles at least on the technical levels. If I understand his main point, he is critical of deregulation. Many of us in the power generation business at the technical level have been critical of deregulation activities for various reasons. A deregulated marketplace always becomes one of the factors during root cause analysis of what goes wrong in massive weather events, no matter what part of the country.
            I live in an area of the country that is subject to massive wind storms every winter that takes down older trees which then fall on the power lines. Deregulation activities allowed the local large power supplier to reduce its T&D staff since they were “costly” to keep on the payroll. Well a storm hit and thousands were without power for weeks. Crews had to be called in from many areas of the country as well as Canada to restore service.
            Some crews were charged out at $400/hr per person plus overtime even while sitting in diners having breakfast. It became a total fiasco. The utility tried to recoup those costs but were not allowed to pass them along to the ratepayers by the state utility commission since it was seen that even though dereg activities were deemed okay by allowing the utility to reduce staffing, that did not allow the utility to recoup extraordinary costs due to their poor planning. Result: more crews hired back either directly or indirectly through service contracts plus a much more robust program to deal with cleanliness around power line right-of-ways at no additional cost to the ratepayers.
            Many will try to perform root cause analysis of this event in Texas in an attempt to point at a single reason for this epic failure on ERCOT

            1. @Rod. I’m still working on finding the real-time numbers at Ercot (or understanding why they are not more widely available). It appears they used to be published at these following Ercot websites. A search of Google cache files indicates they were available as recently as Jan. 13. But for some reason, the “mospublic” sites for real time reporting are all down, busy, or are no longer supported at the moment (and the data sheets are not particularly user friendly anyway). What I suspect may also be happening

              1. @EL – to be perfectly honest, my idea of a well diversified grid would be one that obtained electrical power from large light water reactors, smaller light water reactors, small heavy metal reactors, molten salt breeder reactors, high temperature gas cooled reactors, liquid metal breeder reactors, a bit of hydro, some relatively small amount of gas, and perhaps some well maintained and modern coal.

              2. @EL,
                We may agree more than disagree on the end result. However I think we disagree on the path required to get there.
                For example we appear to agree that removing energy subsidies would be good in the long run. However as Brian May and others discussed in the past, some subsidies are good and have long range positive effects while others are not and result in a concentration or transfer of wealth to weak performers. I am not one who believes that if all subsidies were removed and a carbon financial penalty imposed then solar and wind will magically rise to the top like cream. Market forces would kick in and coal would find a way to still maintain its lion share of US power generation for the foreseeable future. More old coal plants will be retired and new ones with better scrubbing technology will come on-line. That is happening right now. Coal has had a long time on top and the industry will not go away willingly.
                As to grid reliability in Texas or elsewhere, I believe in the proven concept of having baseload power plants sized properly for the local area and population growth patterns with peak generation sources to handle the natural ebbs of daily life. Call me old-fashioned but if something works why change it? Our grid architecture has been working for a long time, it just needs updating not a complete redesign to accomodate wind and solar.
                We need to update T&D resources throughout the country no question. There is some merit to “smart grid” technology if it will allow more efficient grid operations provided the focus is to maintain baseload output not use smart grid enhancements as an exuse to elminate baseload sources. And we need to remove old coal or other GHG emitting plants. But does that mean we need to change the grid architecture and force people to accept changes to their lives because of fundamentally weak generation sources? I say no. We just need to replace like for like. A thousand MW

                1. @Bill Rogers. Thanks for your detailed and thoughtful reply. It’s surprising how much we agree. I would be fine keeping investments in renewables to 20% or so of generation (spending more time developing alternatives), and putting the bulk of our resources and efforts on upgrading the grid and flattening demand/load with storage, better demand management, and more distributed generation. It’s seems we’ve reached a “critical mass” in our traditional approach to power generation. We basically have a national program of overbuilding to meet the peak

                  1. @EL,
                    This debate has now transgressed into a discussion on the validity of distributed generation which is a whole different discussion and a totally separate debate since that takes us back to the Amory Lovins line of thinking. I am already on record as being against most of Mr. Lovins positions as he has a tendency to massage facts to meet his political goals and maintain his consultant business revenues.
                    There were several key points that you may have read in the articles provided but did not directly relate to my comments about wealth transfer.
                    The articles pointed to three general things:
                    1. The Pacific Northwest did not need the power now being provided intermittently by wind. No large scale power sources were being planned, wind or otherwise, for another 5-10 years based on power usage and population growth patterns.
                    2. The Pacific Northwest already has large hydro resources which should be considered “green” considering the current definition of “green energy” but due to legal definitions developed by consultants are not. This definition was purposefully developed to require development of wind and solar resources where none were needed.
                    3. BPA and the utility companies in the PNW are now being forced to develop low efficiency natural gas generation to back up wind which will result in raising the GHG emissions in the local areas.
                    So to conclude, due to political decisions not business or consumer needs, BPA is now forced to deal with a power source that requires a very high level of control due to its intermittency; cannot be considered a true independent power source; forces BPA back to the drawing board about how to balance fish population and migration issues with water rights; and may ultimately increase GHG emissions within the Pacific Northwest geographical area. And these questionable political decisions are being financed by artificially created subsidies where none would have been required if actual industrial, commercial and personal consumer usage patterns were considered.
                    The other point of all four articles was to show how renewable energy credits (REC

  2. “Update: Does anyone know of a web site for Texas’s ERCOT that is analogous to the informative BPA Balancing Authority Load and Total Wind, Hydro, and Thermal Generation, Near-Real-Time?”
    I spent some time a while back looking for electricity production data in different regions to address the impacts of wind power on future markets for baseload electricity. I have a lot of links, and the hourly production of wind power is actually available for most regions within the US and Canada. That said, I did find that BPA was rather unique, but Ontario IESO is quite comparable and superior in the level of data, but the systems are different and it takes leg work to process everything.
    The most relevant link I’ve found is:
    Which gives historical info about grid operation, but it’s probably not of interest. It doesn’t really help me to know line losses unless I have a LOT of other data as well. But I found that if you email them and ask for more stuff they are very quick to send you what they have and are very helpful. There are lots of presentations and reports out there on the internet that uses such data. It’s not public on the internet, but I don’t think it’s carefully guarded and probably intentionally proliferated within certain communities.
    So I hope that helps for now. The short answer is ‘no’, but if you ask a bit of a different question, there’s a lot of stuff that you might find useful. I’ve known of other people to quote me ERCOT events as demonstrating the management problems with wind power. I think this is a natural consequence of 2 factors mainly. To start with, MISO has the most wind in the nation, but the regulatory structure there is different and they’ve done a lot of good work to ensure reliable connection and wind and demand patterns are different anyway. Texas has a huge amount of wind, comparable to MISO and they also have a unique, more free-market way of management. This is very top-level and you should ask a real expert for an explanation including the specific technical aspects of these examples if you need them.
    Oh boy I write too much, but this is one of those issues where I bite…

      1. @EL – to answer the question I have, the only thing that will work is real time numbers that allow matching the morning peaks against the wind turbine outputs minute by minute. I know you do not necessarily agree, but my theory is that having a lot of uncontrollable wind on the grid at a time when there is very little reserve margin is inherently unstable. It may be reasonably easy for a large grid to accommodate variable production when there is a sufficient reserve margin, but it has to be very difficult if there is significant minute to minute variation near a peak in load with little response margin remaining.

  3. Rod,
    The closest I have found is something from Prof Mack Grady from University of Texas, Austin that the AWEA is championing.
    HOWEVER, even Prof. Grady, who appears to be a champion of wind in Texas, does not have actual data like that provided by BPA.
    His discliamer is the following:
    Wind MW generation is not presently available on ERCOT

    1. @Bill:
      Thanks for the link to Professor Grady’s web site. It has a very interesting screen shot of a site that used to provide exactly the kind of information that I am looking for. That site was suddenly taken off line in early December 2010. At the bottom of the screen shot is a note that provides an email address for a contact at ERCOT. I wrote him the following note:
      Dear Mr. Saathoff:
      I have been searching for ERCOT grid information that has total generation, wind generation and spinning reserves on a frequent basis. I found Professor W. Mack Grady’s web page and learned that their was such a page up until early December 2010 when there was a very significant die off in the wind generation.
      According to Professor Grady’s page, the service was taken off line at that time and has not been restored. Are there plans in the works to put it back in service?
      If I may register my vote, please work towards a restoration. The information that such a service provides is a key decision tool in some very important decision processes for our nation’s energy future.
      Best regards,
      Rod Adams
      Publisher, Atomic Insights

      1. I did get reply from Ercot. They say they no longer provide real-time break down by generation type (a recent change). They provide aggregate data on generation type by month (in the source I provided). They also say they provide real-time data on market information webpage and grid information webpage (LMPs, things like that).
        As you know, Ercot has transitioned from a zonal market to a nodal market (this has been in the works for a number of years). Nodal market went live Dec 02, 2010 (the day of the last screen shot by Grady). I’m not going to make excuses to them, but it seems they have had to restructure what they provide to the public on this basis

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