Drought/Heat Clobbers Texas Fossil Fuel plants. Wind Keeps on Spinning.

August 8, 2011

When the Earthquake/tsunami closed down all of Japan’s nuclear power plants, I reported that wind was one of the only remaining reliable, tsunami proof sources of power.

Now, Dallas Morning News quotes ERCOT, the Electric Reliability Council of Texas, which manages the state’s electrical systems:

The Texas electrical grid operator began emergency procedures to prevent total blackout on Tuesday as the heat lead to record electricity demand, and told customers to brace for a repeat in the next few days.

The high temperatures also caused about 20 power plants to stop working, including at least one coal-fired plant and natural gas plants.

..such outages aren’t unusual in the hot summer, and Texas is getting some juice from surrounding states and from Mexico.

According to an ERCOT spokesman, conventional power plants suffer in this kind of heat.

“They can’t really efficiently condense the steam that’s used to make electricity, so that causes unit deratings that they can’t generate as much as they could if the lake were cooler.”

The American Wind Energy Association notes: 

Meanwhile, some 1,800 MW of wind generation were available yesterday, more than double the 800 MW that ERCOT counts on during periods of peak summer demand for its long-term planning purposes. 1,800 MW is enough to power about 360,000 homes under the very high electricity demand seen yesterday.

AWEA Manager of Transmission Policy Michael Goggin commented, “Like the Texas blackouts in February in which cold weather caused around 80 mostly fossil-fired power plants to shut down unexpectedly, this episode illustrates how common forced outages are at conventional plants, and drives home the point that no power plant is available 100% of the time.  And, unlike wind energy, which ramps down gradually over a sustained period of time and is predictable, conventional power plants fail instantaneously.  Wind energy is a valuable tool to diversify our portfolio of energy resources and make it more reliable. Wind plants are keeping the lights on and the air conditioners running for hundreds of thousands of homes in Texas.”

Abilene Online: 

…wind turbines have contributed more than expected during the record power usage reported this week by electric grid officials in Texas, industry advocates said.

Statistics for last year show that natural gas and coal plants produced 78 percent of energy for the portion of the state serviced by the ERCOT power grid.

Wind produced 8 percent of energy last year.

But with the ongoing installation of transmission lines, industry advocates said that number should grow after the lines’ expected 2013 completion date.

“If you go anywhere between Post (southeast of Lubbock) and Winters, you can see hundreds of people working on transmission lines right now, said Greg Wortham, executive director of the Texas Wind Energy Clearinghouse and mayor of Sweetwater.

Texas remains the leader nationally for wind capacity, with more than a fourth of the 42,432 megawatts of United States’ installed capacity, according to the most recent statistics from the American Wind Energy Association.

“Wind could contribute more today if there were more transmission lines,” Wortham said.

KUHF FM quotes an ERCOT spokesman:

“One of the things we’ve seen pretty consistently the last several days is an increase in wind generation from the coastal wind. The coastal wind generation follows our load pattern very well. It starts coming up about one o’clock and, you know, gradually increases, you know, into the evening.”


18 Responses to “Drought/Heat Clobbers Texas Fossil Fuel plants. Wind Keeps on Spinning.”

  1. daveburton Says:

    If wind were really economically viable, it wouldn’t need the massive subsidies and mandates upon which it depends.

    • greenman3610 Says:

      Take an example that’s local for me, but probably typical.
      The Michigan Public Service commission estimates costs of a newly built coal fired plant at $133/Mwh – new wind at about $10/MWhr (more or less – depends on which utility you ask..)

      Click to access Report_on_Implementation_of_PA_295_RE_345746_7.pdf

      Climate deniers are usually of the school that says “externalities” of fossil fuel generation don’t count. The degradation of land, the asthma, respiratory diseases,mercury poisoning of our children and animals – all these are not considered a cost. That’s not my view.
      Recently, the New York Academy of Sciences published a review of the total costs incurred by coal for it’s total cost – damage caused by coal mining, burning and ash – causing health problems, premature death, lost productivity, damage to our environment, etc.
      comes to an additional 178.4 $MWh


      But when you’re a fossil fuel shill, our children obviously count for nothing, so what’s the problem?

      • daveburton Says:

        That’s gibberish. The cost of a power PLANT is not measured in dollers per megawatt-hour.

        The cost of a power PLANT is measured in dollars, or dollars per megawatt, not per megawatt-hour.

        The cost of POWER is measured in dollars per megawatt hour. The residential retail price of electricity, where I live in NC, it is about $.10/KW-hr, which is $100/MW-hr. That includes generation, distribution, administrative overhead, depreciation, maintenance, profit, etc. — much more than just the cost of generating the power.

        The costs of wind and PV are much, much higher, which is why renewable energy mandates result in rate hikes.

    • BlueRock Says:

      > If wind were really economically viable, it wouldn’t need the massive subsidies and mandates upon which it depends.

      If nuclear were really economically viable, it wouldn’t need the massive subsidies and mandates upon which it depends.

      Your move.


      * The Real Economics of the Increasingly Competitive Wind Power Industry. “…total price for coal-based energy … $0.055 to $0.083 cents per kilowatt-hour”. The U.S. Department of Energy reports that top performing wind farms had costs averaging only $0.059 cents per kWh in 2008. http://www.energyboom.com/yes/real-economics-increasingly-competive-wind-power-industry

  2. sailrick Says:

    Wind is economical.

    besides which:

    Fossil fuels get twice as much in U.S. subsidies and tax credits as ALL renewables combined.

    Oil has been subsidized since 1918.

    Coal has been subsidized since 1932.

    If the externalized or hidden costs of fossil fuels were evident in the stated price, they would have a difficult time competing with wind and solar.

    Between these hidden costs, like environmental demage and health costs, and the shameful subsidizing of a completely mature and hugely profitable fossil fuel business, they are the most expensive of all.

    What do you think the costs of climate change will be?
    Complete loss of civilization?
    What would that cost economically?
    Yes that is possible. At about 4C warming, which we may well do in this century

    Take a look at the Arctic . It is warming twice as fast as the rest of the world. The rate at which Arctic Sea Ice and Greenland’s ice are melting is alarming. We are looking at an ice free Arctic sea in summer in as little as 5-20 years from now.
    Do you have any idea what will happen if the permafrost melts, releasing huge amounts of methane into the atmosphere?

    And all that is happening due to 0.8 C warming since the 1800s.
    Our current emissions up to right now already guarantee another 0.6-0.8 C warming to come over the next 20-30 years or so. That is if we completely stopped emitting CO2 right this minute.

    Choosing fossil fuels is choosing death. Period.

  3. daveburton Says:

    Dear sailrick,

    Q: If fossil fuels get twice the subsidies that renewables get, but produce 10x the power, then which is more heavily subsidized?

    A: Renewables, of course.

    Every wind and PV project results in rate hikes for electricity consumers, because wind and PV are dramatically more expensive than fossil fuels.

    With current technology, wind and PV don’t make economic sense, except in rare special cases — and usually not even then. Even on the minor Hawaiian Islands, where sun and wind conditions are ideal, and where electricity is hideously expensive because most of it is generated by burning expensive imported oil, and where the markets are too small to support nuclear plants, wind and PV STILL require heavy subsidies to compete. On the mainland, where electricity is less than half the price, wind and PV make even less sense.

    Now that cheap and plentiful fracked natural gas has ended the energy crisis, wind and PV make even less sense.

    My answer to your question about the costs of climate change (by which I think you actually mean anthropogenic climate change), is that the costs are likely to be negligible compared to the costs of alarmist hysteria. Global temperatures have plateaued for the last dozen+ years. There has been no measurable global warming since the Clinton Administration.

    You’ve apparently missed the latest about Arctic sea ice. The fluctuations in its extant are NOT caused by global warming; see:

    You should pay more attention to Antarctic sea ice, which (because it is anchored to a continent) doesn’t get blown around by storms. Surprise! It hasn’t declined at all.

    Your fretting about Greenland warming is misplaced, too. Greenland was so named when it was much warmer than it is now, yet there was no disastrous permafrost melt and methane release during the Medieval Climate Optimum. In fact, mankind fared much better then than during the subsequent Little Ice Age.

    The role of anthropogenic CO2 in causing the modest warming that occurred during the last quarter of the 20th century is almost certainly overstated, as well. It’s probably due, in large part, to the influence of the then-very-active sun (which has since quieted).

    I do think there’s some evidence for a modest anthropogenic component, but it wasn’t all due to CO2. Part of it was the greenhouse effect of CFCs (now in decline), and part was due to pollution abatement.

    There’s very, very little chance of 0.6C of warming in the next 30 years. We’re more likely to see cooling than warming in that timeframe, even though there’s no prospect at all that humans will cease, or even reduce, their burning fossil fuels in that time frame.

    • greenman3610 Says:

      will be dealing with sea ice yet again as we come to the end of the melt season.
      for now, see

      as to “antarctic ice growing so it’s all good” meme, see the graph for total global sea ice from U of Illinois –

      pretty clear downward trend – as the video explains, because antarctic ice growth is so tiny, and due to causes that we understand, related to AGW, and soon to turn around.
      The “Greenland was Green” meme is so preposterous in light of 120,000 years of ice cores, that it speaks volumes about this poster’s grasp on reality.

      • daveburton Says:

        Please don’t put words in my mouth, Greenman.

        I did not say, “Antarctic ice growing so it’s all good.” What I said was that Antarctic sea ice, because it is anchored to a continent, doesn’t get blown around by storms, and hasn’t declined at all. That is an undeniable fact.

        I also did not say that all of Greenland was ever green. (Ice cores from Greenland’s interior prove that it wasn’t.) But it is an undeniable historical fact that for hundreds of years, during the Medevial Climate Optimum, enough of Greenland was green to support a self-sustaining agricultural community — and no catastrophic methane release resulted from those higher temperatures. That means sailrick’s fears (and yours?) of catastrophic permafrost melt and methane release are misplaced.

    • BlueRock Says:

      > Every wind and PV project results in rate hikes for electricity consumers…

      Renewable energy FITs have “…led to electricity price reductions in Spain, Denmark, and Germany.” http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Feed-in_tariff

      Dude, every claim you make seems to be factually wrong.

      > We’re more likely to see cooling than warming…

      Oh! I see! You’re part of *that* demographic. Good luck beating reality with wingnut ideology. 😉

  4. daveburton sez “Every wind and PV project results in rate hikes for electricity consumers, because wind and PV are dramatically more expensive than fossil fuels.”

    “A consequence of the rapid development of Northwest wind projects to serve regional and California renewable portfolio standards is an increasing surplus of low variable-cost energy generating capability. This surplus appears to be contributing to lower electricity market prices, reduced value of surplus hydropower energy, and an increasing frequency and severity of excess energy events.”

    Page 9 – Worldwide, land-based wind, geothermal, biomass, and hydro power are even with or less expensive than ‘conventional’ generation – RIGHT NOW. In the time it’ll take to commission one coal plant, photovoltaics will be faster to install and less expensive as well (with no additional land use).

    Bzzzt – thanks for playin’.

    No – repeating untruths does not make them right. 😉

  5. […] already reported on how Texas fossil fuel plants have been hampered by high heat conditions, and how wind energy has been vital and reliable, producing more than the […]

  6. […] Grid officials credited output from the wind fleet for helping meet record power demand this summer during a protracted heat wave and drought. […]

  7. […] credited output from the wind fleet for helping meet record power demand this summer during a protracted heat wave and drought. Share this:EmailPrintMoreDiggLike this:LikeBe the first to like this post. This entry was posted […]

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