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What Role did Frozen Wind Turbines Play in the Texas Power Crisis?

Are Frozen Wind Turbines to Blame for the Texas Energy Disaster?

Note: This is just one reader’s take. I don’t agree with all of this, but thought it was interesting enough to print. If you disagree with anything in the article, just comment below!

The Electric Reliability Council of Texas’ (ERCOT) decision to impose rolling blackouts on millions of customers led to crisis conditions for many residents amid one of the worst winter storms in recent memory. It has also triggered a debate over who or what was to blame for the power outages in Texas. While several power sources failed during the storms, many have said the frozen wind turbines are to blame.

U.S. Rep. Dan Crenshaw pointed the finger at wind power for causing the blackouts. He tweeted, “This is what happens when you force the grid to rely in part on wind as a power source. When weather conditions get bad as they did this week, intermittent renewable energy like wind isn’t there when you need it.”

Texas Gov. Greg Abbott agreed, telling Fox News that frozen wind turbines were the main problem for the grid. “This shows how the Green New Deal would be a deadly deal for the United States of America,” he said. “Texas is blessed with multiple sources of energy, such as natural gas and oil and nuclear, as well as solar and wind. But … our wind and our solar that got shut down … thrust Texas into a situation where it was lacking power [on] a statewide basis.”

But energy experts say wind power is not to blame, stressing instead that the power system as a whole failed. While frozen wind turbines impacted output, the drop in output from natural gas and coal power plants was even greater during the storm.

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ERCOT loses over 40 gigawatts of capacity

ERCOT announced during the power outages that 16 gigawatts of generation capacity from renewable sources were offline, the majority of which was wind. That equates to about half of the state’s available wind capacity at the time.

However, 30 gigawatts of capacity from gas, coal, and nuclear sources were also unavailable. These sources made up a much larger portion of the lost capacity. “Texas is a gas state,” argued Michael Webber, a professor of energy resources at the University of Texas at Austin. “Gas is failing in the most spectacular fashion right now.”

The sharp decline in generation capacity was compounded by the fact that ERCOT was dealing with a record peak for winter demand. On Sunday, February 14, it rose above 691 gigawatts. This is much higher than ERCOT’s estimated winter peak of 57 gigawatts and well above the previous winter record of 65 gigawatts from January 2018.

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A failure of infrastructure

On top of the lack of energy supply and record electricity demand, a failed infrastructure worsened the power crisis. Gas pipelines, wells in the Permian basin, and processing plants froze in the bitter cold. This phenomenon is known as “freeze-offs” in the energy sector. Natural gas production in the Permian plunged to about half of its usual level.

Freeze-offs have been rare in Texas, above all due to the state’s normally mild winter climate. But critics point out that there were warnings about the impact of severe winter weather years before last week’s storm. Further, preventive measures could have been taken to reduce the risk of freeze-offs.

Many gas power plants in Texas are built without walls to guard against the threat posed by overheating in the summer. But in 2011 and 2013, reports prepared by industry groups pointed out that the lack of weatherization measures to protect the state’s infrastructure from the cold was a concern. “With gas prices being low – and storage being full – the risk of 2-3 days of possible freeze-off every several years is a risk that Gulf Coast producers have been willing to take,” a report prepared for ERCOT in 2013 noted.

These risks have become problematic as the number of extreme weather events goes up due to climate change. Note: I disagree here Projections for winter or summer peak demand by grid managers have been increasingly inaccurate. This is because the historical data they are based on doesn’t take into account the changing weather patterns.

California experienced similar challenges at the other end of the weather spectrum last summer, when an unprecedented heatwave triggered a spike in demand that the state’s power grid couldn’t meet. The result was rolling blackouts.



“If you’re planning for historic events … that is not going to be good enough,” explains Michael Craig, an assistant professor of energy systems at the University of Michigan. “And we thought [planning for historic events) would not be good enough, five, or 10, or 15 years down the line. But we are quickly realizing … with California this summer and other events, that it’s not really good enough right now.”

Even Gov. Abbot, who sharply criticized renewable energy over the power outages, appears to acknowledge that the problems go much deeper. He remarked that reforming ERCOT is an “emergency item” for the 2021 legislative session, and criticized the grid manager for its lack of preparedness for the storm. “This was a total failure by ERCOT,” comments Abbott. “ERCOT stands for Electric Reliability Council of Texas, and they showed that they were not reliable.”

By: Jordan Smith

23 thoughts on “What Role did Frozen Wind Turbines Play in the Texas Power Crisis?”

  1. I don’t know how much of a “new perspective” this article provides. First: The failure to freeze-proof natural gas from the well head to the turbines that produce electricity is inexcusable. We know that freeze-proofing the gas supply system CAN be done. It simply was not done. Why? Perhaps because someone or some group of someones think they actually know what a once-in-a-hundred-year-event is. As I have stated many times prior, you cannot know what a 100-year-event is without having multiple thousands of years of data. We simply do not have that data.
    Second: The output from the gas-generated plants was well above normal. The demand was too high for these plants to compensate for lowered output of some gas powered plants and for the nearly total loss of alternate energy sources.
    Third: While we know that we can go back and further freeze-proof the gas system, I have seen no one present a method for freeze-proofing the windmills. The only method of saving the solar output is to have some means of removing snow from the panels (without breaking them) and that does nothing for the cloud cover issue. It would take an enormous battery to hold the energy required to make it through even one day and said battery would need to be buried underground to keep it at a nominal operating temperature. (Which means flooding could be an issue.)
    Conclusion: The gas and coal plants need to be winterized. If someone has a means of preventing the windmill blade freeze up issue, it needs to be demonstrated and then implemented. If you cannot prevent the freeze up or if it costs too much to do so, then conventional (gas, coal, nuclear) power generation capabilities need to be increased, because you cannot rely on any windmill output when you need it most.
    You can stand around pointing fingers or you can roll up your sleeves and get to work.

  2. Another issue that is unique to California and Texas is that they are isolated from the huge Eastern Interconnect that can literally transfer power from the Atlantic to the eastern Great Plains of Canada. This covers enough area that surplus power can move from areas experiencing normal weather with a power surplus to areas experiencing extreme weather events.

  3. There is a story for every viewpoint. Mighty hard to tell who to believe. What I know is we have to much government period.

  4. Yes; there was a big demand on traditional sources of electricity and the supply didn’t keep up with the demand. The erratic expensive “renewable” wind generator supply went to zero. If the eco-ninnies had not forced those unreliable sources on the system; would that system have lost the 45% of power they were supposed to provide? Was the wind blowing? Or blowing too hard? Both reduce the electricity supply!

    As for blaming the freeze on global-cooling, global-warming, climate-change; or whatever they call their propaganda now. A rare cold arctic blast in Texas is called “weather”. The mile thick layer on top of Detroit IS a change in the climate. How many Jets, SUV’s, and Buick’s caused that ice to melt? Answer: NONE! There was once palm trees and reptiles living in Alaska. How many natural gas furnaces made that change? Again; the answer is NONE!

  5. The way I heard it from the Texas people, when the wind turbines went down, Texas went to rolling blackouts and many of those blackouts hit natural gas processing plants – shutting down their gas output to gas power plants. To simplify, they shut down their own fuel sources with rolling blackouts. Dumb mistake.

  6. My hackles were raised when he quoted “energy experts”. To me, that is like relying on “COVID experts”, “Anti-racist experts”, “Education experts”, “Economic experts”, “Climate experts” and all the other so-called experts that consistently get things completely wrong. What I can tell you for a fact is that power grids that relied on hydrocarbon fuels (fossil fuel is an incorrect misnomer used to create bias in the uninformed) suffered far, far fewer problems that were much quicker and easier to fix, such as downed transmission lines due to accumulations of ice. Texas would have fared much better if they had spent the money to winterize their nuclear plants in case of emergency. But they decided to gamble with risk to save money. So not preparing properly and relying far too much on wind generation created most of the problems. Installing city water supply pipes below predicted frostlines and homeowners insulating their pipes in the home would have mitigated most if not all of the burst pipes problem, which was another big problem. but you can’t put much blame on people for not spending significantly more money on the very small chance of a freak occurrence in weather taking place, except in the case of nuclear facilities which should take every imaginable safety precaution.

    1. Would you like to write an article on that to present another perspective? I think that would be very helpful!

  7. It’s more complex than that.

    The generation of electricity has a LOT of FEDERAL controls. Texas is not a part of the national power grid and how the FED has ANY control of it, it is a mystery to me.

    This article is focused on generation sources and does not recount the fact that the FED refused to allow the generators to run above their ‘approved’ output without crippling fines, fees, and rates. THEY CAUSED THE FAILURE. The generation that was online was NOT ALLOWED to generate enough to meet the need, EVEN THOUGH THEY HAVE EXCESS CAPACITY BECAUSE OF FEDERAL EPA “GREEN” RULES AND LAWS.

    There are people paying electric bills in the tens of thousands of dollars because they used what was available to save their lives and homes. THIS IS THE PROBLEM.

    The small amount from wind power is dwarfed by the actual unused generation capacity from fossil fuels in Texas. IT DID NOT HAVE TO HAPPEN. The EPA FORCED the event. This is Biden, and the new green deal plan. Total control over who lives and who dies in a catastrophic weather event.

    1. Based on what I read on ZeroHedge, it sounded like running the plants any higher than they did would have caused catastrophic damage to the grid.

      1. Go back to sleep; keep nursing on msm teat, baby, and go back to sleep, nothing to see here…

      2. Then why did the request run at full capacity, ( -not- over capacity), originate from the companies running that grid?

        Do you claim they had no idea of the terrible consequences of that deadly request?

        Or, perhaps they were intent on just that catastrophe; destroy the independence of Texas grid to force us into the Nat’l Grid, under CCP thumb even more than Xiden?

        Tyler Durden is a wall street trader who writes what will push his readers to make moves that make him money.

        And a great film character, perhaps ever, imo…

        😉

        1. I don’t know much about it. If you’d like to write an article on what really happened, I’d love to publish it!

          1. I second your response. Scott Ragland has some good insight into the issues behind the problem. I think he could write a great eye-opening article.

            1. Absolutely! This article was just one opinion from one person. Would love to hear another take on what happened and why.

    2. It was a freak weather system. Nothing to do with “global warming”. Wind Turbines froze. Gas pipeline equipment froze. The sun didn’t shine. Get over it. Fix it, and realize the limitations of ALL energy sources. And I live in Texas. I was affected.

    3. Sure is funny how -all- conservative outlets parrot the lie of ‘rolling’ blackouts, as above.

      What happened was that @ 40% of Texans were cold, dark, some lacking even water due to ‘rolling’ blackout which lasted at least 4 days, and for some up to 6 days.

      There was -zero- ‘rolling’ blackouts; there was only -one- blackout, which coincidentally covered around 90% of Red Texans, while somehow leaving @ 90% of Blue Texans warm and happy.

      Add in the CCP connection, along w Xiden EPA actually refusing to -allow- running power plants ‘full capacity’ generating of power, which alone would have more than covered -all- Texas grid needs w -zero- interruptions but local lines tree and ice downed, and we have a few questions.

      Throw in SpinelessGregAbbotts’ continuing to ignore everything about just what happened and who did what and when; his continuing failure even to call out Xiden EPA actions as -sole- cause of disaster which -killed- at least 79 Texans, including 11 yr old boy excited over 1st snowfall in his life who literally froze to death in family trailer left powerless by Xiden EPA express command.

    4. Hey admin,

      This is your alt view article author; not the clearly ‘nuke power is ok only w plenty of expensive shielding and buffers and controls and complexity and oversight and milehi costs’ sort of ‘I’m ok w nuke power’ guy above.

      Just sayin’

      Also, what’s up w your JuniorJackDorseyClub ‘awaiting mod’ on every post?

      What are your parameters defining who/what ‘awaits mod’, anyway?

      Zat just a GenZ squish sort of conservatism of this brand, or what?

      Just askin…

      😉

      1. Not at all a squish brand. I was sent this article and published it because I think we’re all better off for hearing multiple viewpoints. And the moderator approval goes away after I approve your first comment, so now you can say whatever you’d like without waiting! I would get rid of that feature, but the spam from bots would be overbearing, unfortunately.

    Comments are closed.