Harsh Winter in USA

Dave Bilyk

Dave Bilyk
I was on a Skype call with colleagues in the Houston area. Their main issue was that water supply was impacted, and they were getting by while waiting for water to become available again.
 

Larry L.

Lifetime Supporter
We are hearing that USA and especially Texas area are being hit by some ultra cold weather.
Texas has a unique situation electric power-wise. The state is not tied into the national power grid...and it was intentionally designed / set up to be that way (I'm sure they had a reason...but I'm in the dark as to what it might have been). As a result, the state is an 'island unto itself' in that department.

So, in a nutshell, the power demand created by the Arctic weather completely overloaded the state's power grid and there was no way to supplement it with additional power from outside the state. Additionally, it's been reported that neither the grid's 'traditional' power plants (fossil fuel) nor the grid's power-generating 'windmills' were insulated to withstand the current Arctic temps - so they froze up.

Obviously, without electricity nothing moves...so the state's residents are currently living like Eskimos used to live 'back in the day'.

I predict a H-U-G-E run on 'automatic transfer' home generator units in Texas in the very near future.
 

Neil

Supporter
Part of Texas' problems are due to politicians jumping on the "green energy" bandwagon and mandating a significant portion of their electrical energy production be generated by solar cells and wind generators instead of the abundant & cheap natural gas that Texas produces. In average times it (the combined energy generating sources) worked but when the "big freeze" came, the solar cells were covered with snow & ice (the skies were cloudy as well) and the wind turbines were not operating at all. Previously, the Texas electrical suppliers would have had the capacity to up their out put with "fossil fuels" but the generating plants that would have been able to normally fulfill that demand sat inoperative-- "green energy" ones-- rather that the natural gas fired plants that would have been available instead.

One bright spot in this fiasco was that the giant wind generator blades were sitting still instead of chopping up birds.
 
Texas has a unique situation electric power-wise. The state is not tied into the national power grid...and it was intentionally designed / set up to be that way (I'm sure they had a reason...but I'm in the dark as to what it might have been). As a result, the state is an 'island unto itself' in that department.

So, in a nutshell, the power demand created by the Arctic weather completely overloaded the state's power grid and there was no way to supplement it with additional power from outside the state. Additionally, it's been reported that neither the grid's 'traditional' power plants (fossil fuel) nor the grid's power-generating 'windmills' were insulated to withstand the current Arctic temps - so they froze up.

Obviously, without electricity nothing moves...so the state's residents are currently living like Eskimos used to live 'back in the day'.

I predict a H-U-G-E run on 'automatic transfer' home generator units in Texas in the very near future.
I have no insight into the answer. But...the east coast blackout of 2003 was precipitated by a software bug in OH. 8 states taken down by faulty software in one place. Perhaps TX had concerns.
Having been through a couple power outages lasting in excess of 5 days, including at least one in the middle of winter, it plain sucks, even if you have a generator. I just hope that people have turned off the water to the house, because when the water comes back on, a lot of people are going to discover the hard way that their pipes froze.
 

Neil

Supporter
Texas's conversion to renewables was strictly a commercial decision. The lack of backup and safety mechanisms was too. This was not unexpected.

According to that Austin, TX newspaper article (if you believe a newspaper from Austin), the wind turbines contribute 24.8% and solar 3.8% of the power in TX. Depending on these unreliable sources for 28.6% of your total electrical power is foolhardy.
 

Randy V

Admin
Lifetime Supporter
According to that Austin, TX newspaper article (if you believe a newspaper from Austin), the wind turbines contribute 24.8% and solar 3.8% of the power in TX. Depending on these unreliable sources for 28.6% of your total electrical power is foolhardy.
The Actual numbers (percentages) of power generation are vastly different from what real life implementation is.
As I understand it - the Design of the grid in TX is to take up to 1/3 (33%) of the power from Wind Turbines. To date the true percentage is around 7%. Natural Gas being the largest percentage of fuel for the generating stations.
 
Part of Texas' problems are due to politicians jumping on the "green energy" bandwagon and mandating a significant portion of their electrical energy production be generated by solar cells and wind generators instead of the abundant & cheap natural gas that Texas produces. In average times it (the combined energy generating sources) worked but when the "big freeze" came, the solar cells were covered with snow & ice (the skies were cloudy as well) and the wind turbines were not operating at all. Previously, the Texas electrical suppliers would have had the capacity to up their out put with "fossil fuels" but the generating plants that would have been able to normally fulfill that demand sat inoperative-- "green energy" ones-- rather that the natural gas fired plants that would have been available instead.

One bright spot in this fiasco was that the giant wind generator blades were sitting still instead of chopping up birds.
Perhaps if Texas had bought the correct turbines for possible cold weather they wouldnt have frozen. They dont freeze in siberia. There is NO incentive to prepare for a bad case scenario under the Texas scheme. They didnt winterize gas pipelines or coal fired plants either.Why you ask? Because no one made them.Thats the Texas system.No regulation. I guess the wind turbines stopped causing cancer while they were down also.
 

Chris Kouba

Supporter
We had an ice storm in OR, have been without power for a week now. Our gas fireplace and stove still function but we're without hot water. Have been able to get gas on the other side of town (power restored already) but word is we'll be down for upwards of 10 days or so still. Tons of trees and limbs down on the lines....

My house is directly behind the down tree, luckily it wasn't tall enough to make it to my yard:
 

Neil

Supporter
The Actual numbers (percentages) of power generation are vastly different from what real life implementation is.
As I understand it - the Design of the grid in TX is to take up to 1/3 (33%) of the power from Wind Turbines. To date the true percentage is around 7%. Natural Gas being the largest percentage of fuel for the generating stations.
So the Austin newspaper article was fake news?
 
ok, I'll weigh in here since I live in Dallas and have been involved in energy procurement for commercial buildings for about 20 years so have a fair amount of knowledge on the subject.

It was a record cold event. Both temperature and duration. Never seen this before and certainly possible I never see it again.

Yes, much of Texas is on it's own grid. The primary issue this week was the loss of fuel generation capacity. We did lose some renewable energy sources at the same time, but that was a contributing factor, not a primary factor. Many of the power plants in the southern Texas area are not winterized like our northern neighbors. The loss of that generating capacity along with historic demand caused the grid operators to have to shed significant loads to protect the entire grid.

Texas has significant renewable energy generation. A lot of wind and an increasing amount of solar. We do not rely on that, but it certainly helps supplement our traditional fuel generation and it has replaced significant amounts of coal generation.

I would not be considered a radical environmentalist, but I certainly am a fan of being prudent with our resources. Wind and sun are plentiful here and I'm glad we're taking advantage of it.

Some of our issues this week are a result of really cheap electricity here. Generally, the price for electricity for commercial users is about $0.03 per kWh (plus the transmission costs and taxes). That's great for users, but makes it hard to justify the capital necessary to build more generation. Combine that with all the businesses and people moving here and it's not shocking that a historic weather event caused some disruptions.

The storms are behind us and it will be close to 70 here next week so we'll be grilling on our patios next week. And in our garages working on our cars. I'm not discounting the pain and real difficulties we faced this week, but we will get through it. Lessons learned and we'll be better prepared next time. This is Texas.

John
 
Texas Monthly just ran an informative article on the subject. Bottom line - lack of investment in “cold proofing” equipment caused the shut down. The whys of that policy are debatable, but ultimately lay in the demand for super cheap electricity.
 

Terry Oxandale

Skinny Man
Texans have always thought they do it better and bigger than anybody else, and the God made Texas for Texans. With that broad general statement said, that philosophy to do it alone extends to the the state's right to not cross state boundaries and avoid Federal requirements for electrical supply...and this is one of the results. So obviously I'm disappoint to a limited degree that the rest of the nation is going to help bail out folks who thought they didn't need or want any interfacing with the rest of the nation.
 
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