Guest “debunking the debunkers” by David Middleton
Setting the Stage
Why was Texas, ERCOT (Electric Reliability Council of Texas) in particular, so unprepared for the onslaught of frigid weather? This was NOAA’s February temperature outlook map, released on January 31, 2021:
20 days later, this was NOAA’s map of the number of hours below freezing for the week of Feb. 12-19, 2021:
In less than a week, we went from an outlook for about normal February temperatures to the forecast of an ice storm and then “the worst winter weather conditions seen locally in decades (if not on record)”… Radical would be an understatement.
The first hint I had of the approach of Winter Storm Younger Dryas was on Monday, February 8. Not being hurricane season, I wasn’t paying too close attention to the weather. The forecast on Monday was for possible freezing rain overnight on Wednesday… But the scary bit was a forecast of single digit low temperatures early in the week. It simply doesn’t get that cold in the DFW area. And as the days went by, the forecast kept getting worse.
The ice storm hit Wednesday night and caused this on Thurday…
And it just kept getting colder. By Sunday, February 14, it was snowing and temperatures were 41 °F below normal…
This Arctic blast was essentially unprecedented…
Oklahoma City set a record for its longest straight period of temperatures at or below 20 degrees: 210 hours between Feb. 9 and 17 beat its previous record in 1983. The temperature dipped to minus-14 degrees on Feb. 16, the city’s lowest since 1899.
Dallas experienced its second-longest streak of temperatures at or below freezing and at or below 20 degrees, and reached its third-coldest temperature on record: minus-2 degrees.
Houston, which was placed under its first wind chill warning, observed a wind chill of 1 degree, its lowest since at least 1990, according to meteorologist Alex Lamers. Its high temperature of 25 degrees was its fourth coldest on record.
Kansas City set a record for the longest stretch with temperatures at or below 15 degrees, at 10 days.
February 16 was actually tied for the second lowest DFW temperature on record.
Coldest temp in over 70 years and the 2nd coldest temp ever recorded in the D-FW area
On Feb. 16 the temperature dropped to -2°.
This ties the 2nd coldest temp ever recorded.
On Jan. 31, 1949 the temperature also dropped to -2°.
The only time it has been colder was -8° back on February 12, 1899.
3 days in a row of record lows
Feb. 14, 15, and 16 all observed record low temps.
Feb. 14 the low was 9°, which shattered the old record of 15° set in 1936.
Feb. 15 the low was 4°, which shattered the old record of 15° set in 1909.
Feb. 16 the low was -2°, which shattered the old record of 12° set in 1903.
3 days of record cold high temperatures
From Feb. 14 to 16, all three days observed record cold high temperatures.
This means the afternoon was the coldest on that date that is ever been observed.
Feb. 14 the high was 22°. This breaks the old record of 27° set in 1951.
Feb. 15 the high was 14°, which shattered the old record of 31° set in 1909.
Feb. 16 the high was 18°, which breaks the old record of 21° set in 1903.
It also pretty well knocked out most of Texas wind power production… because Texas doesn’t winterize their wind turbines… Right?
Debunking the debunkers
Fact Check: Do Wind Turbines Really Fail in Cold Weather?
It’s time to debunk the rumors.
By Brad Bergan
Feb 17, 2021
Crisis breeds confusion and the recent string of record-low temperatures amid this week’s cold and frosty weather conditions in Texas are no exception. But when the state’s power grid fell short of energy demands, misinformation spread like wildfire — arguing that frozen wind turbines are to blame for the blackout.
However, wind turbine installations don’t go up without substantial investment — which means planning for the kind of volatile weather much of the world is already seeing for the first time. The question is raised, then: Can wind turbines really fail in cold weather?
Wind turbines in cold environments typically ‘winterized’
Misinformation sparked when an image showing an Alpine helicopter de-icing wind turbines covered in frost or ice surfaced on social media. The implication was that frozen wind turbines were the cause of Texas’ series of power outages.
The interesting engineer went on to state that helicopter-assisted wind turbines are better for the climate than coal-fired power plants.
In fact, carbon emissions generated from de-icing a turbine — like in the Alpine Helicopter video and image — saves two days’ worth of emissions, relative to coal power.
This may be true… But it’s not likely to be of much comfort to the 4.5 million Texans who lost power during the record-shattering cold stretch.
While I have no doubt that wind turbines are winterized in very cold places where fossil fuels and nuclear power have been effectively outlawed, Texas isn’t one of those sort of places. So… If Texas (ERCOT) wind turbines failed because they weren’t properly winterized, then the other grids hammered by Winter Storm Younger Dryas must have fared better… Right?
The Southwest Power Pool (SWPP) and Midcontinent Independent System Operator (MISO) extend from Texas to the Canadian border.
Their wind power output did what ERCOT’s did… It failed.
Here’s a funny, maybe coincidental, correlation:
Note that the correlation is just as good when temperatures are above freezing. Why use DFW temperatures?
- I live in Dallas and I remember 1983 and 2011.
- The Dallas-Fort Worth (DFW) area was the first major metropolitan area in the ERCOT grid to be hammered.
- The North Central Texas region had the highest electricity demand in the ERCOT grid.
Why were ERCOT and Texas hit so hard?
Why weren’t power outages nearly as bad in the SWPP and MISO grids? It might just have something to do with coal.
On the other hand, the fuel source receiving most of the blame from the lamestream media, outperformed the neighboring grids by a wide margin.
The “failure” was the drop-off from 900,000 MWh/d on February 14 to 700,000 MWh/d on February 16. At this time, the explanations for this are anecdotal. Hopefully, the multitude of investigations will produce at least one dispassionate explanation for what went wrong and how to prevent it from happening again.
Let’s Make Orwell Fiction Again!
[W]hile frozen wind turbines have contributed to the state’s energy crisis, that type of energy has only slightly underperformed against published expectations for winter output.
Wind typically accounts for 20-25% of ERCOT’s winter generation. Winter, particularly February, is actually a good wind season. According to the EIA, in February 2019 wind achieved a 41% capacity factor in Texas. ERCOT data indicate a 31% capacity factor in February 2019. Up until February 8, wind was exceeding expectations… Then the bottom dropped out for 10 days.
Wind’s failure occurred a full week before the power outages… When 25% of your team doesn’t show up for the game, the phrase “only slightly underperformed” is, at the very least, Orwellian.
Natural gas, the state’s dominant energy source, has provided drastically less energy than expected, according to experts and industry data.
This is akin to saying that the Avengers performed drastically less well than expectations against Thanos in Infinity War.
About 60% of Texas natural gas generation consists of combined cycle (CC) power plants, which can exceed 80% capacity factors. Gas turbines and other combustion generators can ramp up and down quickly, but have low capacity factors. From Feb. 7-12, natural gas ramped up 10-20% to >60% and was operating like it normally does in August.
|Technology||Time adjusted capacity (MW)||%||Ann||Jan||Feb||Mar||Apr||May||Jun||Jul||Aug||Sep||Oct||Nov||Dec|
|Natural Gas – CC||41,095.7||60%||56.4||52.7||46.8||44.6||41.4||54.2||65.4||71.6||75.9||69.3||51.1||49.2||53.4|
|Natural Gas – GT||9,689.5||14%||33.8||31.9||29.2||28.6||28.0||32.7||35.9||40.5||42.9||38.7||32.8||31.3||33.0|
|Natural Gas – IC||908.5||1%||19.7||15.5||16.1||17.2||16.3||19.6||20.3||25.1||29.0||26.5||18.7||18.5||13.9|
|Natural Gas – ST||17,096.7||25%||14.8||6.8||6.0||8.8||8.4||13.2||18.3||24.6||34.8||24.4||15.4||8.5||7.8|
While natural gas generation should have been able to hold at a 60% capacity factor from Feb. 14-18, it clearly outperformed what is normally expected for this time of year.
Every part of the ERCOT system failed to some degree from Feb. 15-17.
The narrative has been that conservatives have unfairly blamed the power failure on wind power in order to prop up fossil fuels. The narrative is a straw man.
No, Wind Farms Aren’t the Main Cause of the Texas Blackouts
The state’s widespread electricity failure was largely caused by freezing natural gas pipelines. That didn’t stop advocates for fossil fuels from trying to shift blame.
By Dionne Searcey
Feb. 17, 2021
As his state was racked by an electricity crisis that left millions of people without heat in frigid temperatures, the governor of Texas took to television to start placing blame.
His main target was renewable energy, suggesting that the systemwide collapse was caused by the failure of wind and solar power.
“It just shows that fossil fuel is necessary for the state of Texas as well as other states to make sure we will be able to heat our homes in the winter times and cool our homes in the summer times,” said Gov. Greg Abbott, speaking on Sean Hannity’s show on Fox News. Other conservative talk-show hosts had already picked up the theme.
New York Times
Nothing in Gov. Abbott’s statement is false or misleading. While there were failures across the system, wind and solar failed almost totally a week before natural gas, coal and nuclear experienced their problems. On the coldest day since 1899, fossil fuels accounted for 83% of ERCOT’s electricity generation. Fossil fuels + nuclear accounted for 92%.
Orwellian efforts to exonerate wind & solar and place the blame on natural gas, coal and nuclear power are simply… Orwellian. Claiming that this is a “wake up call” for the United States to further degrade our energy infrastructure, because climate change is Orwellian on LSD and steroids…
White House climate czar to AP: Texas storm ‘a wake-up call’
The Associated Press
WASHINGTON (AP) — The deadly winter storm that caused widespread power outages in Texas and other states is a “wake-up call” for the United States to build energy systems and other infrastructure that are more reliable and resilient in the face of extreme-weather events linked to climate change, President Joe Biden’s national climate adviser says.
“We’re going to push the clean energy, we’re going to push for better cars, but it’s also going to be about capturing the will of the public to actually face the challenges we’re facing today and meet them in a way that’s going to be beneficial to them,″ she said.
For example, Biden’s plans to provide 500,000 charging stations for electric cars and invest in battery technology are intended to make it easier for the public to participate in a clean-energy economy. “If we can lower that cost, and everybody knows they can get where they need to go when they need to get there” in an electric car, “we’ll get the kind of demand on the auto-sector side that we need,″ she said.
Similarly, if utilities are given the right incentives, they can meet Biden’s goal to have net-zero carbon emissions by 2035, McCarthy said. The head of a lobbying group for electric utilities said earlier this month that the 2035 date would be “an incredibly difficult situation to handle” for most U.S. providers.
Clearly, if the grid was devoid of natural gas & coal generation, more wind & solar generation, ERCOT was connected to SWPP & MISO (it already is connected to SWPP and Mexico) and we had 500,000 more EV charging stations… What? Winter Storm Younger Dryas wouldn’t have happened? The power failures wouldn’t have been so bad?
It’s time to make Orwell fiction again… MOFA!
Who, what, when, where and why?
Whatever happened to the 5 W’s? At this point we only know what, when and where. Yet, virtually all of the lamestream media are distorting the what and reporting conclusions about who and why based on anecdotal information and “expert” opinions.
We won’t know the “why” until we know exactly what failed:
- Ice on blades?
- Frozen turbines?
- Poor wind conditions?
- Poor cold weather performance in general?
- Natural gas
- Frozen wellheads and damaged separators?
- Shut in production to avoid frozen wellheads and damaged separators?
- Frozen pipeline control valves and/or hydrate plugging?
- Low line pressure due to excess demand for heating and electricity?
- Compressors knocked offline by power outages?
- Frozen pipes in power plant cooling systems?
- Power plants offline for maintenance in low demand season?
- Frozen pipes in power plant cooling systems?
- Frozen boilers?
- Ice covered coal stacks?
- Emissions restrictions?
- Power plants offline for maintenance in low demand season?
We won’t know the “who” until we know the “why”.
Even worse, the politicians have already claimed to know what the solutions are. And in almost every case, the media and politicians are focusing on what they think should have been done differently over the past 20-50 years, rather than on what could have been done differently over the past 20-30 days, particularly what could have been done differently from February 5-14, 2021.
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