Texas’s Wounded Grid (yes, it’s windpower again)

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By Robert Bradley Jr.

“While solar power is generally reaching near full generation capacity, wind generation is currently generating significantly less than what it historically generated in this time period. Current projections show wind generation coming in less than 10 percent of its capacity.” (ERCOT, below)

“The saga is not over but will likely get worse. Wind and solar are still being added to the grid, and the politicians and regulators will have to resort to more and more intervention to keep the lights on over time.” (RLB, below)

The Sunday announcement was for yesterday: a conservation alert between 2 pm and 8 pm because of disappearing wind power:

ERCOT Issues Conservation Appeal to Texans and Texas Businesses

Appeal Effective Monday, July 11, 2022

With extreme hot weather driving record power demand across Texas, the Electric Reliability Council of Texas (ERCOT) is issuing a Conservation Appeal, asking Texans and Texas businesses to voluntarily conserve electricity, Monday, July 11 between 2-8 p.m. ERCOT also issued a Watch for a projected reserve capacity shortage from 2-8 p.m. At this time, no system-wide outages are expected.

Conservation is a reliability tool ERCOT has deployed more than four dozen times since 2008 to successfully manage grid operations. This notification is issued when projected reserves may fall below 2300 MW for 30 minutes or more.

ERCOT encourages all electric customers to visit the Public Utility Commission’s (PUC) Power to Save or their electric provider’s websites to get important conservation tips. According to the PUC, ways to reduce electricity use during peak times include turning up your thermostat a degree or two, if comfortable, and postponing running major appliances or pool pumps during afternoon peak hours.

ERCOT continues to use all tools available to manage the grid effectively and reliably, including using reserve power and calling upon large electric customers who have volunteered to lower their energy use.

ERCOT emphasizes that the call for conservation is limited to the hours of 2-8 p.m. Factors driving the need for this important action by customers:

  • Record high electric demand. The heat wave that has settled on Texas and much of the central United States is driving increased electric use. Other grid operators are operating under similar conservative operations programs as ERCOT due to the heatwave.
  • Low wind. While solar power is generally reaching near full generation capacity, wind generation is currently generating significantly less than what it historically generated in this time period. Current projections show wind generation coming in less than 10 percent of its capacity.

Under current projected scenarios, performance of the generation fleet Monday is:

Installed CapacityMonday (7/11) Tightest Hour (2-3 p.m.)Percentage of Installed Capacity Available at Tightest Hour
Dispatchable80,08367,91385%
Wind35,1622,6988%
Solar11,7879,55781%

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Now think of opportunity cost. As Bill Peacock explained:

To put this is context, Robert Bryce estimated that generators have spent at least $56 billion building wind farms in Texas. The 8% projected capacity of wind at peak demand tomorrow means about $51.5 billion of that investment was wasted. If that amount had been put into natural gas generation, Texans would not be under a statewide “conservation appeal” and wondering if their lights and air conditioners will stay on today.

Yes, and more so. Wind (and solar) have wounded the Lone Star State’s grid and exposed the perils of central planning by the (misnamed) Electric Reliability Council of Texas (ERCOT). Already, a news story in the Houston Chronicle recently warned that ERCOT was issuing mandatory stay-in-service orders to natural gas-fired plants that would otherwise be in maintenance preparing for the August peak. The can is being picked down the road, as Shelby Webb documents:

After two decades of relying on market mechanisms, namely prices, to bring power on and off the grid, the PUC and the Electric Reliability Council of Texas are instead ordering generators to keep plants running — even when the electricity isn’t needed — to ensure a comfortable supply cushion.

In addition to adding costs for consumers, power generators say they’re losing money and damaging aging equipment to meet the new requirements, signaling they may mothball some plants, or shut them down for good, due to wear and tear.

Translated, more than a decade of forcing unreliable wind and solar on the grid, reliable generation has been forced off the grid because of low margins and unavailable financing. Gas-fired and coal-fired units have been prematurely retired, new capacity has not been added, and surviving capacity has been poorly maintained. It is a triple Atlas Shrugged.

I have explained the underlying problems of government-managed Texas grid in many posts at MasterResource and at IER. Two posts of particular import are here:

Expect the mainstream media, covering for the ‘Green New Deal,’ to blame the Texas problem on global warming or on the politicians/regulators for not doing enough to shore up capacity. But the true blame goes to a damaging mix of:

  • A centrally planned wholesale power market (via ERCOT) that did not know how to price (mispriced) reliable capacity
  • Forced capacity additions from wind and solar via federal and state subsidies.

The saga is not over but will likely get worse. Wind and solar are still being added to the grid, and the politicians and regulators will have to resort to more and more intervention to keep the lights on–next time.

The post Texas’s Wounded Grid (yes, it’s windpower again) appeared first on Master Resource.

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July 12, 2022