The Energy Solution for Texas — And the US

The Energy Solution for Texas — And the US
( Jay Janner/Austin American-Statesman via AP)
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In response to the excellent commentaries about the Texas wind energy fiasco (e.g. from Tucker Carlson), there is a lot of pushback baloney — because the guilty parties never want to acknowledge the failures of their policies. It is always the blame of someone else, or something else. Always.

This brief, simplified article is about the primary core problem, that essentially no one is talking about…

In every electric grid (like the Electric Reliability Council of Texas, ERCOT, in Texas), Supply and Demand have to be matched every second. Otherwise, when Demand exceeds Supply there would be blackouts — which would happen daily (as occurs in some third world countries).

To assure that this matching is continuous, there is a Grid Safety Reserve. This consists of operating standby fossil fuel supplies, amounting to 15±% of the current demand. When Demand exceeds Supply+Safety Reserve, again there would be blackouts — which is what is currently happening in Texas.

The two fold purposes of this Safety Reserve are for the Grid to able to fully handle:

1 - unexpected changes in electricity Demand, plus

2 - unexpected downtime for electricity Sources.

That sounds sensible, so what’s the problem?

Well, for industrial wind to work on any Grid, it needs to have a 100% augmenting supply to compensate for its continually, rapidly, changing power output (i.e. to maintain the per second balance explained above). For technical and economic reasons, this augmenting supply is almost always gas.

OK, so for every 10 MW wind project, does that means that there needs to be a dedicated 10 MW gas facility? YES!

Is that happening — e.g. in Texas? NO!

Why not? Because:

1 - To maintain the false narrative that wind is inexpensive, wind developers (and their political allies) resisted acknowledging that such augmentation is necessary.

2 - Wind developers didn’t pay for the augmentation their product requires — which they should (i.e. not ratepayers).

3 - Since wind wasn’t properly paying for it, utility companies said: let’s save some money and skip the necessary augmentation.

4 - The Grid operator (ERCOT) failed to require wind developers to pay for the necessary augmentation, or for utilities to provide it.

5 - Worse, the Grid operator allowed utility companies to steal from the Safety Reserve (!) to absorb the frenetic daily wind fluctuations.

Such theft is totally wrong — and should be illegal — as the Grid Safety Reserve is for unexpected Demand or Supply changes. Conversely, wind energy is expected to continuously change through the day, every day.

The Grid Safety Reserve was never intended to compensate for continuous, inherent unreliability. All Grid operators should impose a penalty on any normal operation of their wind fleet that steals from the Safety Reserve — as it jeopardizes all of their ratepayers.

To be clear, this embarrassingly ignorant set of realities is going on in most US Grids. How they get away with it is simple:

1 - The public is deceived about the necessity of augmentation, and

2 - In most other places in the US, the Wind contribution to the Grid is low single digits — e.g. 5%. In such a scenario, Wind can steal 5% of the 15±% Grid Safety Reserve, and no one will be the wiser. Everybody looks the other way…

However, in the Texas case, Wind energy is claimed to be 28±%. Clearly a 15% Safety Reserve can’t handle a loss of 28% — which is exactly what happened this week.

So, when wind goes to near zero in Texas, the Grid will have blackouts — even if everything else is at full capacity! If there are also failures of conventional capacity, the situation will be worse.


John Droz, Jr. is a physicist based in North Carolina. 

Look closely at this graphic:



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