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Why can't Texas keep the lights on when neighboring states can?


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I do not have any answers, so this is NOT a JAWM thread.

If I compare Texas outages right now with Oklahoma outages I see the images attached below.  Basically, Oklahoma is experiencing WAY fewer outages than Texas, even in adjacent counties directly across the border.  This is something that the Texas energy regulators are going to have to answer for.  So what are the possible reasons for this huge difference in results?  I have a few ideas, but I suspect it is likely a complex combination of all of these and perhaps other factors of which I am unaware.  Here is a brief list:

Too many electric-only homes

I know that a lot of the posters from Texas have indicated that their homes are all-electric.  Many do not seem to have any other way to provide heat, so when it gets cold, more of the load of heating falls to the electricity grid than to other utilities like the natural gas pipelines.

Houses are too poorly-insulated

Since Texas is further south than Oklahoma, it makes sense that houses would not be as well-insulated there.  That said, it also seems that the temperatures yesterday and today are colder in Oklahoma.

Texas' electricity grid is not well-connected to neighboring states

My understanding is that there are basically three electricity grids in the US: West of the Rockies, East of the Rockies, and Texas.  I know that sounds like the beginning of a Texas joke, but I believe it is true.  There are links between these three grids, but the links are not as strong as the interconnections within each of the grids.  The bottom line is that a state like Oklahoma can more easily borrow from neighboring states if they have a shortfall than can Texas.

Texans are more wasteful of electricity

Everything is bigger in Texas and their electricity usage does not seem to be an exception.  If you look at the last column in this list you will see that Texas used more than twice as much electricity as California in 2017.  Of course the climates are not identical, but I doubt that accounts for the entire difference.  It may just be historical, since a lot of the natural gas in the country originally came from Texas.  (The same could be said about Oklahoma.)

ERCOT's "energy-only" electricity market

ERCOT stands for the Electricity Reliability Council of Texas.  That is the name of the grid operator for the Texas electricity grid.  They use something called an "energy-only" electricity market, which has come under fire during hot summers when electricity prices have spiked.  Pundits have defended this market approach as a good thing: Summer price spikes are a feature of Texas' power market, not a bug.  Price spikes are one thing, but outages during extreme weather is quite another!  I expect this "feature" will get a long, hard look after the current debacle is over.  Just have a look at electricity prices in Texas for last Thursday (mostly around $40/MWh or $0.04/kWh) versus yesterday's prices (often $9000/MWh or $9/kWh but never below $1000/MWh or $1/kWh). (My understanding is that those are the spot prices paid to the electricity generators on the grid.  Those values are averaged over the month and over the entire Texas grid and then are passed on to the consumers.)

Too much renewable energy with insufficient backup

Texas has more installed renewable energy production than any other state.  And they are growing that very rapidly.  I have heard reports that the cold has caused perhaps half of the wind generators in Texas to shut down, which is one of the reasons for the current shortfall.

As I said above, I suspect all of the above may be factors in what is going on right now, but perhaps there are other factors at play.  Of course none of this discussion helps anyone who is suffering in the cold in Texas right now, but ultimately someone will need to figure these things out in order to minimize the risk of this type of problem in the future.

What other factors do you think might be leading to the ongoing outages in Texas?

Texas Outages 20210216 0319.png

Oklahoma Outages 20210216 0319.png

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Just a note: well-insulated homes are not only important in cold places, they reduce energy consumption in hot places that use air conditioning too.

Respectfully, it’s because of the lives lost and the suffering that we should talk about this. The fight to make ERCOT take responsibility and make changes is an uphill battle. They have lined their p

Not because they are renewable energy or windmills, but because they weren't properly built for weather.

Has Texas had more freezing rain than Oklahoma??

ETA: Or slushier, wetter snow? That can weigh down tree branches and power lines almost as much as freezing rain.

Edited by Pawz4me
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DH says it is likely made worse by the Texas-only grid and their decision to retire their base load fossil-fuel power plants in favor of renewables that are not doing well in the weather. Natural gas shortages (and price jumps due to the demand) are likely also a factor.

Your other points are contributors but probably not enough themselves to cause this scale.

The other grids are strained & power is sky high (cost wise) in other markets, but they are sharing the load & mostly keeping up for now. Southwest Power Pool is looking at $5,000-$7,000/MWH prices vs $25/MWH normally. They've warned customers of rolling brownouts. I'm not sure how many have experienced outages.

Normally when one area has weather-related power outages, other areas of the country send their utility crews to help. I'm not sure how many places can send their crews because the weather is so widespread.

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1 hour ago, Carrie12345 said:

Population density?

This is a big part of the problem right now.  Right now in my rural area no one has lost electricity, but even if we do, many of us have wood fireplaces or wood stoves.  A lot of us have generators.

My MIL in Houston and my son's friends in Austin haven't had power for over 24 hours now. Tons of apartments with only electric heat. Millions of people there using electricity as opposed to our small section. 

 

Edited by TexasProud
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I was trying to figure out why wind turbines in Texas are shut down when the ones in MN are working fine.  According to a quote by a senior director of the company that manages Texas’ electrical grid most of the plants that are shut down due to weather are gas, coal, and nuclear.   So it’s not a problem with wind power specifically, it’s that all of the plants were not designed for extreme cold. 

Also they ramp-down production in the winter because they don’t expect to use as much power as they need during air-conditioning season and you can’t just flip a switch to get a hibernating power plant back online.

Article:  https://www.texastribune.org/2021/02/15/rolling-blackouts-texas/

 

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It's being reported here in New England as principally a function of the Texas grid not being nearly as connected to adjacent grids as most of the rest of the country (and thus unable to look to neighboring grids to help out in the emergency).

I've also heard some reports of the wind turbines "freezing" and like @Danae been puzzled, as I've never heard that issue encountered in much further-north sections of the country where very low temperatures and freezing rain are commonplace. Perhaps wind generation facilities in northern states have been built with de-icing mechanisms that Texas' turbines don't have?  Dunno.

 

We lose power *all the time* in my area, but it's not a power generation thing as Texas is experiencing now, it's a distribution problem -- both electrical storms and freezing ice knock trees down onto the cables, which then blocks the roads before the trucks can get to the wires. We were out for eight.freaking.days this summer, though at least that was summer.

But there's a sort of weary preparedness response culture-- a lot of folks have generators, everyone has huge containers of emergency water (we're on wells, so the WATER PUMPS fail when we lose power), houses are generally designed pretty well insulated, rooms tend to be smaller with closable-doors. I actually have fond memories of winter outages, snuggling in sleeping bags with the kids in front of the fireplace with the doors sealed off and everyone clutching their flashlights.

 

Hoping you all are restored to normalcy soon.

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We live a cross the lake from our local power plant.  It is running, but ERCOT demanded they cut the local power by 40%.   They have been running about 1/3 of the city down all night, rotating.  Our power went off and on last night.....more off than on, but on long enough to make it bearable.  The house is was holding in about the 50s this morning.  It runs two cities since the neighboring city buys it’s electricity from us.
 

We pulled a mattress into our bedroom and shut the door. Shut the cats into our bathroom/closet and the dogs with us.  We all slept in a pile in clothes and three blankets.  We are eating when the power comes up.  Still have hope we can defrost the pump/pipe from the well to the tank enough to get a bath tub full.

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I just read this on FB:

Why is the power out and what is being done about it? First -- know that the City of Plano has no “power” to fix this. This is a state level problem. Texas has its own power grid, managed by ERCOT. This situation was expected but not managed. Remember the great Super Bowl Ice Storm of 2011? Solutions were discussed, but never implemented.

The culprit then as now is the failure to “winterize” power plants we depend on for peak usage electricity. With our deregulated power generation system, there is little incentive for power plant owners to winterize, given that the need (like we're having this week) only arises once every decade or so.

This time around, as ERCOT began taking neighborhoods off the grid for a short time, they discovered that generation capacity was also falling offline – 34,000 megawatts were dropping off as their equipment froze up. (Every megawatt can power about 500 homes.) When they went to restore power to those neighborhoods taken offline, they could not find enough power to do so. "Rolling blackouts" of 15-45 minutes turned into "controlled blackouts" of several hours or more. As things have deteriorated further, some areas may not find their power restored for days. ERCOT simply cannot get these power generating stations back online any faster.
The weather outlook is currently so bleak for the next few days – especially with power-line breaking ice on the way – we can expect yet more power problems in the days ahead.
After 2011’s power problems, the power generators that failed were fined token amounts. They “promised” to get their plants properly winterized. Needless to say, the fines were less than the cost of winterization, and it never happened.
How do we fix this once and for all? Let your state legislators hear from you. The Texas legislature needs to put more pressure on ERCOT to force the winterization and other steps so that we're prepared the next time.

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1 hour ago, Danae said:

plants that are shut down due to weather are gas, coal, and nuclear.

Well, most of the nuclear plants are running at 100% power as of this morning. Region 4 has Texas plants. Link shows their power status as of this morning. (Comanche Peak is the one I looked up because that's the one so recognize.) Nuclear takes awhile to get started (2-3 days to get to 100% from a cold start -- and sudden disruptions in the power grid can knock them offline!) so I'm a bit suspicious of the reporter or their source on that article. There are a couple nuclear plants at 0% on the report and nuclear can be a BIG source of power, but I am not really believing the story so much.

I don't know if gas and coal plants have the same sort of status report available.

South Texas 1 - 3853 MW 0% power

The other South Texas plant is operating at 100% as are both Comanche Peak plants. Three-fourths are up & running. I suspect (but did not verify) that South Texas 1 is undergoing planned maintenance.

Edited by RootAnn
Added nuclear plant data
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5 hours ago, Laura Corin said:

Just a note: well-insulated homes are not only important in cold places, they reduce energy consumption in hot places that use air conditioning too.

So right, sister!  🙂  Laura is right! Our mid-60's home is not insulated efficiently and we are captive to extremely high energy bills in summer, here in NC!  Plus I'm from the north originally and like it cooler. 

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1 hour ago, Danae said:

According to a quote by a senior director of the company that manages Texas’ electrical grid most of the plants that are shut down due to weather are gas, coal, and nuclear.   So it’s not a problem with wind power specifically, it’s that all of the plants were not designed for extreme cold.

I was a bit skeptical of this statement, and apparently RootAnn has found that nuclear plants in Texas have not shut down, but it seems there is more than just generation involved.  Apparently some of the distribution equipment is also not winterized and has failed as the temperatures dropped and the load increased.

Here is a broadcast from Texas this morning that goes into some details on the issues:

WFAA broadcast on the Texas power outage

Some tidbits that I caught:

- Apparently there was 34 GW (!!) of generation that was shut in this morning.

- While the power companies recommend that YOU winterize, they have not been taking their own advice.  There was apparently a recommendation made that power companies in Texas winterize their equipment, but it was not made a requirement.  Since the power grid is privatized, it seems these provides felt that was an expense they did not want to take on.

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6 hours ago, Laura Corin said:

Just a note: well-insulated homes are not only important in cold places, they reduce energy consumption in hot places that use air conditioning too.

Thank you! I have this argument EVERY YEAR with people here, and every year, people laugh like I am just another crazy-pants with funny "environmental talk".

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We have the highest amount of renewable energy in Texas. Our governor has taken great pride in that about a fourth of our state energy is through windmills. However, all those windmills froze.

Edited by Janeway
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Some areas in Texas had outages due to ice and wind taking down lines.  Relatives in Oklahoma prepare their pool for winter--we don't (usually) need to here in Texas; so they don't have their pump running to prevent frozen pipes, but with ours running 24/7 right now we still have ice covering our pool!  

It is not that our homes are not insulated in Texas--but they are designed to let hot our out, not keep it in.  Yesterday it was sunny, but we don't have big windows facing west to warm up the house.  High ceilings let warm air rise.  

Our heating systems are central AC/Heat.  That means they run on electricity and blow warm air through the ceiling vents--usually enough to keep a Texas house warm.  But, it means we have warm ceilings and cold floors.  

DD has lived in the Alps for the past several years and happens to be in Texas now.  Although she is used to prolonged periods of cold and snow she is noticing a big difference and complaining about it being cold here.  

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2 hours ago, Kassia said:

I just read this on FB:

Why is the power out and what is being done about it?

Wow.  That's deregulation, for you. 

Seems like every industry that has been deregulated since the Reagan years has had some problem delivering necessary service at a critical time.  It's almost like regulation is necessary...

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34 minutes ago, Janeway said:

We have the highest amount of renewable energy in Texas. Our governor has taken great pride in that about a fourth of our state energy is through windmills. However, all those windmills froze.

Not because they are renewable energy or windmills, but because they weren't properly built for weather.

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59 minutes ago, MissLemon said:

Thank you! I have this argument EVERY YEAR with people here, and every year, people laugh like I am just another crazy-pants with funny "environmental talk".

You should focus on how you saved money and now you can go fun places.

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Apparently there is a problem with transformers breaking in some parts of the state.  
 

I do not understand what "poor grid conditions" means, but I keep hearing reports that they are not able to do the planned rolling outages because of it.  So, some people are without power for extended periods of time and others are not losing power.  

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My expert tells me that I was wrong - to an extent. South Texas 1 (nuclear plant) was online yesterday during the day. It tripped offline last night because of "low steam generator water level due to feed pump issues." (I don't know if the feed pump issues were cold-related.) Anyway, wanted to come back to say that today's power is lower than yesterday due to a nuclear plant trip-- but that it wasn't yesterday's power issue. 

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The other big issue that affects daytime production is the fact that snow fell on most of solar panels.  Texas now has over 6 GWp of solar production online (and I do not know if this total includes "behind-the-meter" solar (on people's houses), but that production will not come online when snow is covering the panels and also will not work during an outage.

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1 hour ago, MissLemon said:

Thank you! I have this argument EVERY YEAR with people here, and every year, people laugh like I am just another crazy-pants with funny "environmental talk".

I'm not sure I completely understand the mechanics of these houses being designed to let hot air out.  Around here there is no rhyme or reason to window placement and insulation helps maintain indoor temperatures whether they are hot or cold.  People with ceiling fans flip the switch to have them run the other way and push hot air down from cold ceilings.  I'm not quite getting how you can keep cold air in your home efficiently but not warm air.  I'm not doubting this is true . . . I'm just not knowledgeable about how these homes are built.

I read yesterday that most states have laws that require the power grids be properly weatherized to prevent this sort of shut down.  This is true even in locations where ice is a rare event.  In Texas it seems this discussion comes up every twenty years or so but the owners never actually spend the money because they are not legally required to do so.  If it comes down to them being allowed to hold on to cash at the expense of putting people's lives at risk, even IF it only happens every other decade, I wonder if public outrage will drive public policy in this case? I do understand that ice can pull down lines and it can take days for these to be repaired and replaced.  It's my hope that emergency teams from other states have been deployed to assist.  The only silver lining to power outages in freezing temperatures is that you can put your frozen foods outside and not loose the contents of your freezer.  

Edited by KungFuPanda
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One thing I've read in the past is that a lot of renewable energy has to be used immediately or go to waste because the grid isn't equipped to store it very well. Is that at play here? Like, those snow covered solar cells and frozen uninsulated windmills - did they at one point generate wasted power that can't be drawn on now?

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I just checked the temperatures in my house.  In my kitchen which has a tile floor (and built on pier-and-beam so there is a crawl space below), the temperature near the floor is over 20 degrees cooler than at the ceiling level.  In my dining room (with wood floors) it is over a 10 degree difference.  In the summer in Texas this is desirable.  Let the hot air rise and keep the area in which I am living cooler.  With below freezing temperatures, this isn't desirable.  

We have venting to let the hot air escape from the attic. Radiant barriers are used in conjunction with insulation to keep hot are OUT of the house.  

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5 minutes ago, Farrar said:

One thing I've read in the past is that a lot of renewable energy has to be used immediately or go to waste because the grid isn't equipped to store it very well. Is that at play here?

That is *always* true with our electricity grid.  It is the ultimate JIT (just-in-time) system.  Generation has to match the load at all times or the system falls down.  We do have small amounts of storage that helps to manage this balancing act.  The most successful technology to date for storing electricity is called pumped storage.  In that type of system, two dams hold water and when there is extra electricity available water is pumped up from the lower dam to the upper dam.  Then when additional electricity is needed, the water is released from the upper dam through the turbines and generates the needed electricity.  FWIW, the largest pumped storage facility in the world is here in Bath County, VA.

Unfortunately, pumped storage is only usable in some geographies.  Most of Texas cannot take advantage of pumped storage because it is too flat.  As such, they will need to use technologies such as grid-connected batteries to assist with grid balancing.

But pumped storage and/or grid batteries are not enough to meet the goal of very high penetration levels of renewable sources.  What is needed for that purpose is SEASONAL energy storage.  In other words, we need to be able to store up additional electricity production during the summertime and then use it during the wintertime, like right now, since the renewable sources are incapable of meeting the needs of Texas right now (even if they were producing normally).

The good news in all of this is that Texas, out of all of the states in the country (except perhaps Hawaii), probably has the absolute best chance of reaching 100 percent renewable generation using just wind or solar (without standard hydroelectric production like they have in places like Vermont or the Northwest).  The reason I say this is that Texas has massive solar and wind resources available.  But how can they achieve seasonal load shifting?  The best idea I have seen is to produce methane during periods of additional production and use it during times of need to power the natural gas power plants which are already in place in the state.

All of this will take some time to develop and put in place, but Texas has a chance to pull it off eventually.  As you get farther from the equator, the prospects of doing this get more and more remote.  For instance, the idea of heating Boston in wintertime using only 100% renewable electricity during a Nor'easter is not likely to happen anytime soon.

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31 minutes ago, KungFuPanda said:

I'm not sure I completely understand the mechanics of these houses being designed to let hot air out.  Around here there is no rhyme or reason to window placement and insulation helps maintain indoor temperatures whether they are hot or cold.  People with ceiling fans flip the switch to have them run the other way and push hot air down from cold ceilings.  I'm not quite getting how you can keep cold air in your home efficiently but not warm air.  I'm not doubting this is true . . . I'm just not knowledgeable about how these homes are built.

 

Speaking only of the homes I have lived in, they are built like every other house I have lived in, no matter the location. They just don't insulate as well, because that costs money. The pipes aren't insulated because "it hardly ever gets cold enough to worry about that". Nevermind that every.single.year, we have several days that we have to let the water drip to keep the pipes from freezing. 

I am lucky because whoever built this house spent the cash to insulate the attic really well, (so well that the house inspector commented on how nice the insulation is, lol). My electric bills in summer are usually around $160 for a 2300 sq ft house. My friends in town with smaller homes pay $400+ in the summer. Same power company. The only difference is the insulation. 

Edited by MissLemon
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4 minutes ago, RegGuheert said:

That is *always* true with our electricity grid.  It is the ultimate JIT (just-in-time) system.  Generation has to match the load at all times or the system falls down.  We do have small amounts of storage that helps to manage this balancing act.  The most successful technology to date for storing electricity is called pumped storage.  In that type of system, two dams hold water and when there is extra electricity available water is pumped up from the lower dam to the upper dam.  Then when additional electricity is needed, the water is released from the upper dam through the turbines and generates the needed electricity.  FWIW, the largest pumped storage facility in the world is here in Bath County, VA.

Unfortunately, pumped storage is only usable in some geographies.  Most of Texas cannot take advantage of pumped storage because it is too flat.  As such, they will need to use technologies such as grid-connected batteries to assist with grid balancing.

But pumped storage and/or grid batteries are not enough to meet the goal of very high penetration levels of renewable sources.  What is needed for that purpose is SEASONAL energy storage.  In other words, we need to be able to store up additional electricity production during the summertime and then use it during the wintertime, like right now, since the renewable sources are incapable of meeting the needs of Texas right now (even if they were producing normally).

The good news in all of this is that Texas, out of all of the states in the country (except perhaps Hawaii), probably has the absolute best chance of reaching 100 percent renewable generation using just wind or solar (without standard hydroelectric production like they have in places like Vermont or the Northwest).  The reason I say this is that Texas has massive solar and wind resources available.  But how can they achieve seasonal load shifting?  The best idea I have seen is to produce methane during periods of additional production and use it during times of need to power the natural gas power plants which are already in place in the state.

All of this will take some time to develop and put in place, but Texas has a chance to pull it off eventually.  As you get farther from the equator, the prospects of doing this get more and more remote.  For instance, the idea of heating Boston in wintertime using only 100% renewable electricity during a Nor'easter is not likely to happen anytime soon.

That's super interesting. Thanks for that detailed response.

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6 minutes ago, MissLemon said:

Speaking only of the homes I have lived in, they are built like every other house I have lived in, no matter the location. They just don't insulate as well, because that costs money. The pipes aren't insulated because "it hardly ever gets cold enough to worry about that". Nevermind that every.single.year, we have several days that we have to let the water drip to keep the pipes from freezing. 

I am lucky because whoever built this house spent the cash to insulate the attic really well, (so well that the house inspector commented on how nice the insulation is, lol). My electric bills in summer are usually around $160 for a 2300 sq ft house. My friends in town with smaller homes pay $400+ in the summer. Same power company. The only difference is the insulation. 

Wait, do Texans even KNOW that their fans have a reverse switch to help get the heat off the ceiling and into their living spaces? This might help some people today.

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Just now, KungFuPanda said:

Wait, do Texans even KNOW that their fans have a reverse switch to help get the heat off the ceiling and into their living spaces? This might help some people today.

Maybe? I have no idea. The ceiling fan argument is another one I have every summer. "If we run the fans, we can set the ac a little higher and save energy". "That's not going to make hardly any difference! Why bother!" And then I offer an argument about air flow and evaporation and get a bored stare in return. 

It doesn't make sense to me. I grew up in cold climates that also got swampy humid in summer. Dressing for the weather and managing the temperature in the house via a variety of methods was just something we did because it kept the bills low.  My family is, uh, not the slightest bit environmentally aware, either. 

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26 minutes ago, RegGuheert said:

 

But pumped storage and/or grid batteries are not enough to meet the goal of very high penetration levels of renewable sources.  What is needed for that purpose is SEASONAL energy storage.  In other words, we need to be able to store up additional electricity production during the summertime and then use it during the wintertime, like right now, since the renewable sources are incapable of meeting the needs of Texas right now (even if they were producing normally).

 

The problem is that Texas' high usage season is summer, not winter. If we could store power better, we'd still normally be storing power now to use in August.

2016 Texas Average Residence Electricity Usage by Month

 

From

https://www.texaspowerguide.com/texas-electricity-shopping/

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One thing from the video that Janeway linked: The guy with the diplomas behind him asked the question (paraphrase) "Do we want to spend a lot of money to prevent a little bit of suffering?"

Frankly, I find that to be very presumptuous.  This emergency is still unfolding.  How does he know there will only be a little bit of suffering?  The answer is that he doesn't.  Let's hope and pray that's all there is, but that certainly is not the only possible outcome.

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27 minutes ago, Bootsie said:

I just checked the temperatures in my house.  In my kitchen which has a tile floor (and built on pier-and-beam so there is a crawl space below), the temperature near the floor is over 20 degrees cooler than at the ceiling level.  In my dining room (with wood floors) it is over a 10 degree difference.  In the summer in Texas this is desirable.  Let the hot air rise and keep the area in which I am living cooler.  With below freezing temperatures, this isn't desirable.  

We have venting to let the hot air escape from the attic. Radiant barriers are used in conjunction with insulation to keep hot are OUT of the house.  

I still don't understand.

Hard flooring and crawl spaces are common throughout the U.S. It's not just a warmer climate thing. And hot air rises is a universal thing. It's why we change the direction of our ceiling fans seasonally.

I don't know about ridge vents. I think most homes here in NC have them. But we've also got a lot of insulation between the house ceiling and the attic flooring.

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8 minutes ago, Pawz4me said:

I still don't understand.

Hard flooring and crawl spaces are common throughout the U.S. It's not just a warmer climate thing. And hot air rises is a universal thing. It's why we change the direction of our ceiling fans seasonally.

I don't know about ridge vents. I think most homes here in NC have them. But we've also got a lot of insulation between the house ceiling and the attic flooring.

I don't know how common tile flooring is throughout the US.  In my room with tile flooring the floor is at least 10 degrees colder right now than the rooms with hardwood.  That is good in the summer--which is mostly what we need to be concerned with here.  We don't have heat that runs through flooring like some places that tend to get cold that I visited.  We don't have radiators that are heating at lower levels of a room.  

Often there is not enough winter here to change the direction of a ceiling fan.  Cooling may be needed more than heat throughout the winter.  I have lived in houses that the ceiling fan is in a cathedral ceiling and switching directions requires a tall ladder--that isn't going to happen for the one cold day of the year.  We have ONE ceiling fan in the downstairs portion of our current home.  It is not doing much to keep warmer air directed down through most of the house.  

I don't have high ceilings in my kitchen (I think 8 foot) and the temperature at the ceiling is registering 80, but it is in the 50s at floor level--if you can tell me how to get that heat down, I am all ears.  

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5 minutes ago, Bootsie said:

 

I don't have high ceilings in my kitchen (I think 8 foot) and the temperature at the ceiling is registering 80, but it is in the 50s at floor level--if you can tell me how to get that heat down, I am all ears.  

We have a ceiling fan in our kitchen. It runs all the time.

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10 minutes ago, chiguirre said:

The problem is that Texas' high usage season is summer, not winter. If we could store power better, we'd still normally be storing power now to use in August.

2016 Texas Average Residence Electricity Usage by Month

 

From

https://www.texaspowerguide.com/texas-electricity-shopping/

Thanks for that chart!  Compare that chart with the electricity that the (10 year old!) solar array on my roof produced in 2020.

Notice that the peak and the valley for my production are almost identical to the consumption numbers you provided.  The difference is that the valley of my production occurs during December, January, and February while the valleys of consumption in Texas occur in March, April, and November.  As such, I think we can all agree that while my system produces almost exactly the same *amount* of electricity as the typical Texas load, the production does not always occur at the right time.  (In fact, the fit is MUCH better than for the load at my house!!)  For instance, if I look at February, my system has produced between 1000 and 1350 kWh during the month of February.  Unfortunately, THIS February, it has only produced 440 kWh so far (because of snow and clouds) and we are already most of the way through the month.  But February doesn't look too bad overall for Texas. January, OTOH, would be a problem in the typical Texas year.

This is all good news for Texas, since "seasonal" energy shifting will neither be as big nor for as long as it would be for me here in VA.  That means less cost for seasonal storage.  It also means less wasted energy since seasonal storage is necessarily less efficient than overnight storage.

FWIW, Texas currently has 77GW (!!) (did I mention that everything is bigger in Texas?) of solar planned to go onto your grid.  Apparently about 60% of that "planned" number typically gets built, but that is still a giant number.  IMO, solar is a perfect fit for Texas since it very closely matches air conditioner loads both daily and throughout the year.  (And, yes, overnight battery storage is coming along, but it is still too expensive.)

Just to make my point about moving away from the equator being a problem a bit more clear, I have a 2-to-1 variation in production throughout the year and about a 2-to-1 variation in load throughout the year, but THEY ARE SHIFTED BY SIX MONTHS.  I have online friends in the Seattle area who see a 6:1 variation in solar production between summertime and wintertime.  Imagine being in some place like Boston where your loads might ALSO have a 6:1 variation shifted by six months, meaning you have almost no solar production when you need it most.  Massive amounts of seasonal storage is a must up there, but we are a long way from having that type of technology readily available.

Solar Production in 2020.png

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As someone who just spent 33 hours without electricity in an all electric home, I just wish Texas would plan this better.  I understand the rolling blackouts.  The street next to us has 1 hour on and 1/2 hour off.  We were off for 33 hours without any communication on why or if when power would be restored.  Our main living areas are in the low 40s.  We have a well insulated attic and newer windows.  We put up comforters over the doors and have all the shutters closed to keep out the cold, but nothing works when it is 1 or 2 degrees and no power.  We feel fortunate to own a generator.  We put everyone in one room including pets and that room is holding at 55 degrees with a space heater.  The 2nd heater is in a bathroom keeping the pipes from freezing.  We are at the point of shutting off the water if this continues.  We gave up on the pool and are hoping for the best.  I keep hearing on the news that they knew the plants couldn't handle this.  I hope some form of planning comes out of this.

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As I'm reading more about this, it seems like there are a lot of issues that led to what's happening in terms of government regulation or lack thereof, and which power sources were relied on and how pricing works and so forth...  but that the way homes are built in Texas with a real lack of insulation is a major factor here that doesn't have to do with the grid or energy delivery and costs. Like, how cheap are the construction techniques in y'all's homes anyway? And how could that possibly not additionally be a problem in the summer with energy efficiency? I understand that it's usually not necessary to ward against this level of cold. This is a crazy weather event for sure (though we're going to have more of them). But insulation is good for cold and heat. Are people really saying that homes in Texas aren't insulated much at all?

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This has been a known problem for Texas.  ERCOT was fined a few years ago (a very minimal amount) and did little to upgrade their facilities.  They have no financial incentive to do so, and in a deregulated state that values corporate independence, haven't really been held accountable.

Like Miss Lemon, we also lived in a well insulated house and using ceiling fans and upgraded our HVAC and piping insulation to be able to withstand cold temperatures.  Our former neighbors are complaining about how their pipes froze and they've been without water for three days and this has never happened.....except I remember January 2018, January 2016 and December 2015. God bless 'em, they just don't want to do anything about it.  It's kind of like flooding in Houston--why are you surprised you flooded out again when you've done so 3 times in the last 5 years?

 

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13 hours ago, RegGuheert said:

ERCOT's "energy-only" electricity market

 

ERCOT stands for the Electricity Reliability Council of Texas.  That is the name of the grid operator for the Texas electricity grid.  They use something called an "energy-only" electricity market, which has come under fire during hot summers when electricity prices have spiked.  Pundits have defended this market approach as a good thing: Summer price spikes are a feature of Texas' power market, not a bug.  Price spikes are one thing, but outages during extreme weather is quite another!  I expect this "feature" will get a long, hard look after the current debacle is over.  Just have a look at electricity prices in Texas for last Thursday (mostly around $40/MWh or $0.04/kWh) versus yesterday's prices (often $9000/MWh or $9/kWh but never below $1000/MWh or $1/kWh). (My understanding is that those are the spot prices paid to the electricity generators on the grid.  Those values are averaged over the month and over the entire Texas grid and then are passed on to the consumers.)

That is what I posted this morning at about 3:30AM when I created this thread.  Here is what prices look like today (every single 15-minute period in every one of the 15 regions in ERCOT has a price of $9000/MWh or $9/kWh, which is the maximum allowable).  Again, methinks this "feature" is going to get a long, hard look once this whole thing is over.

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