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Utopia Talk / Politics / Texas renewables are less reliable
habebe
Member
Tue Feb 23 15:39:21
http://amp.usatoday.com/amp/6772677002

Well at least according to these ERCOT numbers it appears that way...at least without quality battery advances.
Sam Adams
Member
Tue Feb 23 16:03:32
Solar and wind are not close to ready to provide reliable widespread energy in most climates. I think wind never will be.

The sunniest locations will be able to rely on solar plus batteries soon for reliable base load. Solar is down to 3-5 cents per kwh for the raw panel(in reasonably sunny spots) and 10 cents per kwh for the battery(so long as we are not talking about the high reliability tails that exist in most places). Thats not bad pricing. Especially in combination with electric cars.

But the 99.9% uptime a civilized people expects is beyond solars ability in most locations for at least a decade.
habebe
Member
Tue Feb 23 16:10:13
up next
Fact check: Turbines getting too much blame for blackouts
OPINION
Texas blackouts warning to Biden and all of us: Renewables do play a role in grid problems
Common-sense has already lost to political considerations — and people across Texas and the Great Plains are paying the price.
JASON HAYES | OPINION CONTRIBUTOR | 12:05 am EST February 22, 2021

It’s not just a cold front. Over a decade of misguided green energy policies are wreaking havoc in Texas and the lower Midwest right now — despite non-stop claims to the contrary.


The immediate cause for the power outages in Texas this week was extreme cold and insufficient winterization of the state’s energy systems. But there’s still no escaping the fact that, for years, Texas regulators have favored the construction of heavily subsidized renewable energy sources over more reliable electricity generation. These policies have pushed the state away from nuclear and coal and now millions in Texas and the Great Plains states are learning just how badly exposed they are when extreme weather hits.

Renewable’s defenders retort that Texas’ wind resource is “reliably unreliable.” Translation: It can’t be counted on when it’s needed most. The state has spent tens of billions of dollars on wind turbines that don’t work when millions of people desperately need electricity. As the cold weather has gotten worse, half the state’s wind generation has sat frozen and immobile. Where wind provided 42% of the state’s electricity on Feb. 7, it fell to 8% on Feb.11.

The Texas power outage was inevitable
Unsurprisingly, the failure of wind has sparked a competing narrative that fossil fuel plants were the real cause of power outages. This claim can be quickly dispelled with a look at data from ERCOT, the state’s electricity regulator. Even though the extreme cold had frozen cooling systems on coal plants and natural gas pipelines, the state’s coal plants still upped their output by 47% in response to increasing demand. Natural gas plants across the state increased their output by an amazing 450%. Fossil fuels have done yeoman’s work to make up for wind’s reliable unreliability.

An excerpt from the article.
Sam Adams
Member
Tue Feb 23 16:15:15
Should use nukes.
Seb
Member
Tue Feb 23 17:28:50
Didn't the nukes (or was it other thermal) have their cooling inflows freeze up and turbines freeze?

Saw pictures of one plant where the turbines aren't even fully enclosed.

Also seen graphs where there's this sudden fall off in thermal power plants.

I think you need to face up to the problem being private companies having very little incentive to invest in resilience.

Particularly if they operate a mixed fleet and an artificial shortage leads to huge premiums on some assets and no additional costs on others.
Sam Adams
Member
Tue Feb 23 19:00:11
A lower proportion of the thermal generation failed than wind and solar. If texas had more wind and solar, this would have worse.

The main problem was acceptable levels of water impurities in the natural gas pipelines freezing, blocking the flow of fuel. The pipelines were not designed to handle once in 30-50 year cold. Should they have been? Dunno. I have not done the math on that cost. That could be a lot money, not necessarily worth spending in this probability tail.


"I think you need to face up to the problem being private companies having very little incentive to invest in resilience."

Ok California. Lol.
kargen
Member
Tue Feb 23 20:02:04
Another problem with wind turbines is they have to be shut down if the wind is to strong. Happens quite a bit around here.

And if it is true that winds will continue to increase (caused by global warming) wind is going to be even less reliable going forward.

Sam Adams
Member
Tue Feb 23 20:54:26
High wind cuttouts were at least 2 orders of magnitude less frequent than the simple lack of wind at my old wind farms back when i was in that field.

And usually a wind farm does not see high wind cuttouts hit every turbine. Usually the farm as a whole is still cranking out above normal power even if high wind cutouts are occuring at some(usually the upwind row or two) towers.

Thus, an insignificant concern.

Alas, wind is plenty unreliable simply due to lack of wind.
habebe
Member
Tue Feb 23 20:58:25
Kargen, That assumes that going forward technology won't solve that problem.

The lesson I get from this is that Texas renewables are not prepared for such events.

That doesnt mean they should slow down going forward, but that they should evaluate the best cost effective way to prevent a similar event, now whether that is a strategic reserve of alternatice fuel, or weatherization of the grid , I dont know.
Forwyn
Member
Tue Feb 23 21:59:07
"Didn't the nukes (or was it other thermal) have their cooling inflows freeze up and turbines freeze?"

One reactor of four in the state had a pump freeze, yes. The other reactor at the same plant continued operations.

This resulted in a 1200 MW loss.

Frozen turbines accounted for a 12000 MW loss.
kargen
Member
Tue Feb 23 23:10:56
Sure I expect technology to at some time take care of some of these problems. Thing is the technology is being pushed faster than is wise. Texas in part became dependent on the wind and solar energy. That was a mistake. Until advances are made there needs to be redundancies in place.
The most needed area of advances is in batteries. Lithium batteries suck for the environment and we need to get away from those as soon as we can.

On an aside here is an interesting article about wind energy in my part of the country. I live in Walsh (the town mentioned) and helped Hefley transfer and organize his wind study data so the state could analyze it. He has several years worth of data from locations all over the county and several private firms have made him offers to purchase the data.
Anyway kind of an interesting article.
jergul
large member
Wed Feb 24 03:01:25
Sammy
Renewables can be baseload if the regional grid is geographically large and varied enough.

Habebe
Hydro power is the absolutely best "battery". Don't use hydro as baseload, but use it to cover peaks and fall off from production.

Supplemented by natural gas in standby if required.

Kargen
Get better windmills. Modern ones tamper blades to continue production in gale force winds.
Seb
Member
Wed Feb 24 04:33:48
Sam:

"Of the 45,000 megawatts of power offline during the peak, 30,000 megawatts stemmed from natural gas, while 16,000 megawatts were from wind turbines."

Natural gas provides 47% of Texas power, wind 20%.

So the drop off is broadly equivalent.

But wind turbines in other countries are built to operate under such conditions.

The story here isn't about renewables Vs thermal plants - it is that you haven't built your grid and power plants to operate under such conditions. This is the problem with deregulation in utilities: there are high external costs to interruption of supply that fall on end users. It normally takes regulation to force suppliers to factor in mitigations those kind of risks. Financial penalties and or commercial hit is too discounted in annual budgets, and as commodities are undifferentiated (particularly when the grid is an intermediary), price competition incentivises deferring investment in resilience.

Seb
Member
Wed Feb 24 04:37:10
Sam:

I mean sure, if you want to say "this is a 50 year event and I'll weigh investment cost against the risk adjusted direct financial and opportunity cost to this firm continent on that event" - but then the costs of business and people of people freezing in their homes like a third world country don't appear on the balance sheet.

Only on a regulators.
Seb
Member
Wed Feb 24 04:45:50
If wind in Texas had performed as well as natural gas, the total peak fall would have been 42.8 GW drop.

The grid would still have had widespread blackouts.

This is from a range of sources I quickly pulled together so take this as order of magnitude stuff.


It does not support the case that the energy mix was wrong. It suggest resilience is shit.

It also looks to me given various quoted peak Vs cumulative downtime that the gas was hit worst - mean time to recovery for frozen pipes Vs turbines shut down by windspeed would be a first guess.
Seb
Member
Wed Feb 24 04:53:45
Honestly, with grid distribution, risks are mutualised (grid goes down if enough providers fail), costs mostly fall on end users, and the benefits for skimping on investing in resilience to to the supplier.

A mix of regulation and strong commercial terms by the grid operator are needed. E.g. regulation might be that the grid operator is required to have x% of capacity from sources that such as such guaranteed uptime, under y conditions etc.
Then leave it to the grid operator to prove this to the regulator and let the market sort out how to deliver that.

Or it really intrusive building codes stipulating exactly what standards pipelines and turbines are built to.

I'd lean on towards the former.
Sam Adams
Member
Wed Feb 24 10:39:52
"So the drop off is broadly equivalent."

Not even close. Wind was operating at some 20-30% of normal... a capacity factor of 8%. Especially on day 2 when the winds dropped off in addition to iced over blades.

Thermal was 150-200% of normal. Not enough to meet demand, given the 50 or so CC cores offline for frozen pipes. CF was about 75%.


"but then the costs of business and people of people freezing in their homes like a third world country don't appear on the balance sheet."

Everything is on the balance sheet. You wouldn't spend 10 billion to save 10 lives. But you would at 10 million.

"Get better windmills. Modern ones tamper blades to continue production in gale force winds."

No. Every turbine blade has a point where it will bend too far back and clip its own base if it is spinning. This varies with design. You match the turbine design with typical conditions. You will never capture all the wind.
Sam Adams
Member
Wed Feb 24 10:49:48
Not to mention bearings/brakes overheat and the variable pitch controller also has strength limits above which it cannot maintain proper blade AOA. All turbines are going to turn off in high winds at times. This is rare enough it does not matter.
habebe
Member
Wed Feb 24 11:25:03
Sam, Well it does mattwr in those rare cases if that is a primary spirce for an area that lacks a back up.
habebe
Member
Wed Feb 24 11:26:06
Wind generally accoints for 20%, but according to ercot can be atleast up to 42% as the above article states.
habebe
Member
Wed Feb 24 11:29:50
NG seems to be a good standard back up.Even though some pipes froze its impressive that they jumped 450%.
jergul
large member
Wed Feb 24 11:41:10
Sammy
You say what I say, but say it starting with no as if you disagree.

An odd habit.
Sam Adams
Member
Wed Feb 24 11:47:12
"Well it does mattwr in those rare cases if that is a primary spirce for an area that lacks a back up."

It does not matter for long term planning as the time when the wind is too high is at least 100 times less than when the wind is too low.

"Renewables can be baseload if the regional grid is geographically large and varied enough."

I forgot to address this. A large winter high pressure covers a continent. No wind and weak sun for. Thus your "regional" grid essentially needs to encompass a large fraction of a planet for that to work.
jergul
large member
Wed Feb 24 12:22:28
Sammy
Not larger and more varied than say Europe and North Africa. Scale gives regression to the mean.
Sam Adams
Member
Wed Feb 24 13:10:47
Europe is tiny.
Nimatzo
iChihuaha
Wed Feb 24 13:44:07
That’s what she said? I don’t know, I guess it works. The pieces are all in there for that joke to work.
jergul
large member
Wed Feb 24 13:47:16
http://www...e_at_same_latitudes_2048x1536/
habebe
Member
Wed Feb 24 14:00:20
All of Europe can fit into rhode Island....
Nimatzo
iChihuaha
Wed Feb 24 14:01:03
Europe is a fractal of peninsulas.
habebe
Member
Wed Feb 24 14:02:54
That said I am no vexillologist.
habebe
Member
Wed Feb 24 14:07:30
http://en....(Eurasia%2C_Mediterranean).png
jergul
large member
Wed Feb 24 14:23:18
http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/List_of_major_power_outages

The list is dominated by 3rd world countries and texas.
Sam Adams
Member
Wed Feb 24 14:28:55
On the "largest" list, texas is not there once.
habebe
Member
Wed Feb 24 14:38:26
there was 2 mentions of the US which in both cases was the NE and Ontario, 2003 a software issue and another from 1965.

Europe was just above the US in 2003.
jergul
large member
Wed Feb 24 15:24:21
Wow, you guys.

You really work hard at butressing your world views against the vicious assault by facts.

The picture painted is that in the developed world, the US, with Texas in particular, has by far the worst energy security.

Too many indicators suggest that a large swath of your country is not really developed at all.

Just ask habebe for the name of his broadband provider :D.

Habebe
Member
Wed Feb 24 15:30:21
Jergul, What facts? The link you provided didnt list Texas at all unless I missed it.

Im not even arguing against your point here, merely pointing out that your cite has nithing to do with your point.
jergul
large member
Wed Feb 24 15:34:37
You missed it. Scroll down to by year and review. The US and Texas in particular are highly overrepresented.
kargen
Member
Wed Feb 24 15:42:59
this is the article I mentioned. I guess I didn't provide the link above.

http://www...owering-the-rest-of-the-state/
Sam Adams
Member
Wed Feb 24 15:48:15
"The US and Texas in particular are highly overrepresented."

On an American website, on the American internet, in English?

Weird.
Habebe
Member
Wed Feb 24 17:06:25
So I actually went over the outage lists from 2000 to current.

Texas really wasnt that bad. The east coast and Puerto Rico especially had a lot, but most of them seemed fairly minor and short lived, that list has plenty of out of power for 30 minutes and such. I think the worst TX one until this one was Falls had 350k initially with hundreds of trees down and was fully restored in less than 3 days.

CA had so many they didnt even list them individually and just said entire years had regular power outages.


"During the 12-month California electricity crisis of 2000–01, there were regular power failures due to energy shortages.[63]"

Iceland had a pretty bad one lasting 3 weeks.


Habebe
Member
Wed Feb 24 17:07:55
^Puerto Rico being the exception to the rule. But it's a poor island nation with regular hurricanes....
Habebe
Member
Wed Feb 24 17:08:16
Territory...not nation.
Sam Adams
Member
Wed Feb 24 17:37:43
"The east coast and Puerto Rico especially had a lot, but most of them seemed fairly minor and short lived"

Ya, those spots get much worse weather. Most of europes people live in an extremely benign location with less environmental risk. They would probably wet themselves if they lived in florida or cancun or the south coast of japan.
jergul
large member
Thu Feb 25 03:15:50
Sammy
Or they would dimension and harden electricity production and transport appropriately.

Electricity in Europe is highly regulated. This includes unbundling (an anti trust move that ensures competition) and a vast array of regulatory safeguards that ensures production and supply.

There are lots of things to admire, but tend to get lost when we insist on looking at electricity nationally, while in fact it is a regional thing.

For example. Hydro from Norway and nuclear from France underpins energy supply everywhere, but if you look at it in a national perspective, it just looks like Norway has lots of hydro (94%) and France has lots of nuclear (71%).

A better way would be to look at the region as a whole (adding the Nordic countries as interconnectors are now in place) to evaluate the energy mix.

You make the same mistake with california. It is also part of a regional system. Its problem is not production, it is grid vulnerabilities.
Seb
Member
Thu Feb 25 03:41:35
Sam:

Can you provide some source data?

I'm unclear if the stats that say Wind energy provides 20% of Texan power represents grid or installed capacity. If it represents 20% of power to grid on average over a year, it is not immediately obvious to me why you can't compare the ratio of drop offs to the average power provided.

"Everything is on the balance sheet."
Really, can you explain the mechanism by which a private power company in Texas faces financial penalty for say, 10 lost lives due to grid failure?

jergul
large member
Thu Feb 25 04:52:02
Frankly, the insentives seem rather peverse.

Does anyone doubt that consumers paid far more in total for electricity delivered than they would have normally?

A balance sheet approach would suggest that any electric company should ensure it owns an energy mix that will give it windfall profits even if most of its electricity production is disrupted.

It should under no circumstances support tying Texas into an interstate electicity grid.
Seb
Member
Thu Feb 25 06:42:36
Jergul:

Yup, that's what I said earlier - seriously bad incentive structure. You can pretty easily arrange it so you gain windfall profits overall, and the cost of no energy is largely externalised and because the grid goes down for everyone in an area irrespective of supplier (you can't trace current back to a particular provider), consumers can't protect themselves by paying more - they have to make separate provision for off grid power.

It's not hard to get free markets to work in this space to deliver both low costs and resilience. It just needs sensible regulation that's focused on protecting consumers from being dumping grounds for external costs.
habebe
Member
Thu Feb 25 09:48:10
"Electricity in Europe is highly regulated. This includes unbundling (an anti trust move that ensures competition) and a vast array of regulatory safeguards that ensures production and supply."

Europe was on that list quite a bit too. Iceland was out for 3 weeks!.

That aside many other problems seem to be plaguing Euro grids.

Germany makes plenty of renewables, but doesn't have the capability to send it out of N. Germany, so they pay people to use it.

France for years did good, but now cant meet demand.

California had entire years with regular outages-your link.

So these goverbment controls have their issues ad well.
Sam Adams
Member
Thu Feb 25 10:17:02
"I'm unclear if the stats that say Wind energy provides 20% of Texan power represents grid or installed capacity. "

Its ~20% of generation averaged over 1 year.

"If it represents 20% of power to grid on average over a year, it is not immediately obvious to me why you can't compare the ratio of drop offs to the average power provided."

Because when the wind is available, it is almost always prioritized over thermal, inflating winds average generation compared to what is available.
Sam Adams
Member
Thu Feb 25 10:20:43
"Really, can you explain the mechanism by which a private power company in Texas faces financial penalty for say, 10 lost lives due to grid failure?"

Lawsuits. Regulator penalties. Avoiding regulator penalty for insufficient generation was a major driver of my old job(improving automated wind forecast tools).
jergul
large member
Thu Feb 25 10:41:06
Regulator penalty? Do you mean fines, or do you mean the risk of actually becoming regulated?
Sam Adams
Member
Thu Feb 25 11:09:21
Fines and the downgrade of reliability ratings(which translates to lost money as other outfits wont pay as much for less reliable generaters).
Seb
Member
Thu Feb 25 11:32:09
Sam:

"Because when the wind is available, it is almost always prioritized over thermal, inflating winds average generation compared to what is available."

Still don't follow here, are you saying the denominator (what wind power dropped by at peak of the storm) was against a lower denominator than c. 20% of texas supply? It sounds like until it failed, wind would be providing power at a level above it's annual average, so the denominator would be larger, and the proportional drop that 16GW would represent therefore less.

There was a graph I saw but cannot now find that appeared to show thermal vs wind fall off during the storm and it certainly looked like the fall off was proportionally greater for thermal.

"Lawsuits. Regulator penalties. Avoiding regulator penalty for insufficient generation was a major driver of my old job(improving automated wind forecast tools)."

I doubt you would be able to sue for consequent damages for grid failure caused by lack of production by a supplier.


Re regulator penalty, Ok, but the whole point was the need for a regulator - question is, what is the fine and does it amount to the cost born externally by consumers of power? Probably not I would bet.

I would guess the issue here is that the grid operator is either over-rating the reliability of suppliers; or under pricing the fines.
Seb
Member
Thu Feb 25 11:54:22
*the numerator (what wind power dropped by at peak of the storm)
Sam Adams
Member
Thu Feb 25 11:56:57

"Still don't follow here, are you saying the denominator"

Offline power nameplate cap/installed nameplate cap.

"what is the fine"

I forgot the exact value but it was pretty damn big. Big enough to be a large factor in our decision making.

"Ok, but the whole point was the need for a regulator"

No one with any knowledge of the industry is saying they should have no regulation. Competent regulation is good. Dont chernobyl or germany your power grid when you can france it.
Seb
Member
Thu Feb 25 13:18:57
Do you reckon the total cost to the Texan economy would have paid for the investment costs required to weather proof the turbines and gas pipelines?

I suspect so - which points to fines being too low to incentivise desired behaviours.
Sam Adams
Member
Thu Feb 25 13:51:11
"Do you reckon the total cost to the Texan economy would have paid for the investment costs required to weather proof the turbines and gas pipelines? "

Dunno. I suspect some proposed improvements are worth the money and some are not.
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