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


RegGuheert
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11 minutes ago, Farrar said:

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?

My house was originally a self build by the original owner.  We’ve had a lot of problems over the years.  At least the fireplace seems to have been done solidly.  
 

Our first year in the house we lost a pipe because there was no insulation in the wall there.  None.  The toilet was there on the inside and the outside faucet on the outside and it was a hollow space in between.  Our windows no longer seal properly and you can feel the draft from all of them.  Our house is cold....   We bought this house as a fixer upper and then other things happened.....but we deal with it.
 

Newer construction standards in my area are plastic pipes that flex for ice freeze but that doesn’t help the older homes.  Newer homes are still cheaply built....it doesn’t stop them from costing $170/sq for low end in my area.  My cousin’s husband pitched an fit to high heaven when their house was being built and they were not going to put in insulation in the wall behind the kitchen cabinets.   He swears they took it back out when he wasn’t looking because it is ice cold in their counters.

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14 hours ago, RegGuheert said:

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.)

I take issue with this. I have lived in both California and in Texas, and I promise you that the climate makes all the difference in the world. You can live in coastal California without air conditioning (not in the Central Valley, i.e., Bakersfield, Modesto, Fresno, Sacramento, etc.), but holy cow--life without AC in Texas would be miserable--not just uncomfortable, but life-threateningly miserable. I have all sympathy for the folks who lived here before AC (and whose economic status today makes AC not possible). We are not "wasteful." Six months of the year with temps in the 90s and above, even at night, with humidity almost that high...I will use my AC, TYVM.

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I don't live in TX, but I've lived in several different states.  When people talk about houses being built differently, they are sometimes talking about things like high ceilings, open floorplans, windows set up for cross breezes, etc.  I've mostly lived in hot places where big rooms with high ceilings are great.  But, those are also hard to heat.  Our bedroom has a 2-story ceiling and it is lovely in the summer, but it's freezing in the winter.  There are also differences like the prevalence of fireplaces, how likely people are to have generators or non-electric indoor heaters (like kerosene heaters) that could take some of the load off of electric heat.  I've lived most of my life in places with all-electric.  We have gas for some things now, but my husband pointed out that if the electricity were to go out we'd still be without heat because the 'blowing hot air' part of  the heat is electric.  We would have the fireplace and the stove, though.  

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7 hours ago, Bootsie said:

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.  

In your situation, I would create a warm room.  Do you have a space that's big enough to hold everyone but can be blocked off from the rest of the house?  Maybe a living room or bedroom?  Upstairs is better. I'd pull the TV and all of the mattresses into this space and close any interior doors or hang blankets in these doorways.  Blankets on the windows help too.  If you have a ceiling fan, change the direction even if you have to borrow a ladder.  Maybe you can even reach the switch with a stick or something?  If you have any other type of fan, aim it toward the ceiling to help circulate the air and bring that warm air back down.  Set it to the lowest setting and just get the air moving. If you have a whole house humidifier, turn it on.  If not, run an vaporizors or humidifiers you have.  Even a crockpot of water will help.  Humid air is just warmer.  Check your first aid kits to see if you have any mylar blankets.  Those will help too.

ETA:  I'd also look into getting my hands on an electric space heater that I can power from an extension cord to my car.  You can use blankets or foam around the cord so that cold air doesn't get in through the window (or whatever access point works best for the cord.)  If you are getting Amazon deliveries, there are some indoor propane heaters out there.  

 

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9 hours ago, RegGuheert said:

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.

Were the solar panels not built with the proper angle to allow the snow to slide off?  There are snow-removal methods for solar panels.

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54 minutes ago, Amy in NH said:

Were the solar panels not built with the proper angle to allow the snow to slide off?  There are snow-removal methods for solar panels.

Central, South, and Coastal Texas rarely have snow that lasts more than a day, so...

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3 hours ago, Clemsondana said:

I don't live in TX, but I've lived in several different states.  When people talk about houses being built differently, they are sometimes talking about things like high ceilings, open floorplans, windows set up for cross breezes, etc.  I've mostly lived in hot places where big rooms with high ceilings are great.  But, those are also hard to heat.  Our bedroom has a 2-story ceiling and it is lovely in the summer, but it's freezing in the winter.  There are also differences like the prevalence of fireplaces, how likely people are to have generators or non-electric indoor heaters (like kerosene heaters) that could take some of the load off of electric heat.  I've lived most of my life in places with all-electric.  We have gas for some things now, but my husband pointed out that if the electricity were to go out we'd still be without heat because the 'blowing hot air' part of  the heat is electric.  We would have the fireplace and the stove, though.  

I think people don't often understand this if they haven't lived in a hot climate. Yes, insulation is important regardless of climate but in some place, such as here in Florida, houses are built to keep heat out, not in. Insulation can only do so much. Those cross breeze set-ups, high ceilings, etc. are needed. When the rare cold spell (or even rarer freeze) hits it IS hard to get the house warm and to keep it warm. In climates where heat is the issue it makes no sense to build for the rare cold weather.

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1 hour ago, Amy in NH said:

Were the solar panels not built with the proper angle to allow the snow to slide off?  There are snow-removal methods for solar panels.

It is my understanding that they have to be at a particular angle to catch the sun effectively, which is the primary concern in Texas, not to allow snow, that seldom falls and when it does usually doesn't stick, slide off

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3 hours ago, Amy in NH said:

Were the solar panels not built with the proper angle to allow the snow to slide off?  There are snow-removal methods for solar panels.

As it turns out, "the proper angle to allow the snow to slide off" is an angle that changes based on a bunch of things including the type and amount of the snow, temperatures, and the amount of grime that is on the panels.  My favorite type of precipitation for sliding off (called shedding) is sleet: it is heavy and when it sheds it scrubs them very nicely.  The weather models for Thursday cannot decide if we are going to get a foot of snow or six inches sleet.  I am voting for the sleet so that our panels can get a good scrubbing this winter.

Unfortunately, our panels were quite grimy at the beginning of the winter with the result that neither of the one-foot snows we received so far shed on their own.  But I did purchase a roof rake back during the so-called "Snowmageddon" and I used that to clear *some* of the panels during our second big snow this year.  I have enough extensions to reach all of the panels, but the thing turns into a noodle once it gets too long!  I have attached a picture showing the effort in progress back in January.

1 hour ago, Bootsie said:

It is my understanding that they have to be at a particular angle to catch the sun effectively, which is the primary concern in Texas, not to allow snow, that seldom falls and when it does usually doesn't stick, slide off

That is correct.  The proper elevation angle for fixed-tilt solar panels is roughly the same as the latitude.  We are fortunate because we have a couple of large sections of roof which point nearly South and have the proper elevation angle.  The roof pitch is 7/12, which feels pretty steep to me when I go up there, but it only really sheds snow when it is pretty clean and the snow is heavy and thick.  As I said, I hope for sleet!

We also have some ground-mount solar panels which have an adjustable angle.  I set them at 60 degrees elevation in the wintertime and 15 degrees in summertime.  Ten degrees is about the flattest angle you want to use for solar panels, even at the equator, because water will pool on top if they are flatter than that and deposit lots of dirt on them.  Those shed much better at 60 degrees than the ones on the roof.  (These solar panels are 21 years old and still work great!)

One issue with solar panels shedding snow is that it can destroy cars, shrubbery, or other things which might be underneath.  As such, we have to make sure not to park too close to the garage when there is significant snow forecast because once the snow comes, it is quite difficult to move them.

IMG_1587.JPG

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2 hours ago, Lady Florida. said:

I think people don't often understand this if they haven't lived in a hot climate. Yes, insulation is important regardless of climate but in some place, such as here in Florida, houses are built to keep heat out, not in. Insulation can only do so much.

There is also something about insulation that I don't think many people are aware of (including many who install insulation in warm climates!):  Even a well-insulated house will have its pipes freeze in cold weather if the pipes are not installed closer to the indoor sides of the walls and the insulation is stuffed on the outside of the pipes.

In fact, it's not O.K. to put the pipes in the middle of the wall and have insulation both on the inside and outside of the pipe.  While that is better than having the pipe toward the cold side of the wall, it sets up what is known as a "thermal divider" where the temperature at the pipe goes to the average of the inside and the outside temperatures.  For instance, if you insulate a pipe equally on the inside and outside and you have 0F outside and 50F inside, your pipe will still freeze because the temperature at the pipe will be 25F.

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I was telling my husband about this thread and he shared 2 interesting tidbits.  He grew up helping his dad with a job in the trades so he was in and out of a lot of older houses.  He said that historically houses in hot places weren't well insulated in part because insulation was common long before AC was widespread.  Great insulation kept the heat in the house, and the house couldn't be cooled in the summer.  So, it was better to have a fireplace, stove, or heaters for the few cold months than to roast for many months each year.  Obviously that wouldn't be the case for new construction, but plenty of people live in old houses that have piecemeal renovations.

The other was something that he learned from a contractor when we were having some insulation put in.  The contractor said that in the more upscale part of town, insulation was put along the rafters rather than over the ceiling in attics.  The idea was to let the heat rise into the attic, where AC was used to cool the space somewhat, but it kept the house much cooler because the heat wasn't held in the room below with insulation just above the ceiling. Aas somebody who loves heat and didn't use AC when living in Georgia as a grad student (my electric bills were minimal!), this sounds crazy to me but we have a lot of transplants who think that 75 is very hot so I could see them being unable to keep a house 'cool' (we set our summer thermostat at 80).  I'd imagine that method is common in TX in new construction so I'd think it could be very hard to heat a room.  I think this is what people are talking about when they say that a 'well insulated house' doesn't mean the same thing - it means well-adapted to usual conditions. 

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On 2/16/2021 at 7:09 AM, RootAnn said:

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.

Yes DH's plant is running at 98%.  They've been ordered to not touch anything that might trip it and lower power.  He has been incredibly bored the last few nights

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I am going to respectfully say that I don't think this is the right time to be discussing this.  We have people suffering and hopefully they are able to survive. I fear  some of our  disenfranchised people will  not live through this.    The weather has broken records that were set over 100 years ago and obviously things will need to be looked at.  It all seems like incredibly poor taste and disrespectful to the loss of life that our area is/will be experiencing.  

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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 pockets while refusing to invest in the infrastructure to protect lives. It’s going to take outrage to make the politicians hold ERCOT responsible.

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5 minutes ago, prairiewindmomma said:

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 pockets while refusing to invest in the infrastructure to protect lives. It’s going to take outrage to make the politicians hold ERCOT responsible.

Exactly.  I started a separate thread on this topic out of respect for those who where suffering through this event.

If we do not discuss this now, it will not get talked about.

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I am trying to find the 2011 agreement with ERCOT. If anyone finds it (feds made recommendations after natural gas Wells froze during the super bowl week storm, ERCOT did not follow through on recommendations made...), could you link here?

This is what happened in 2011: https://www.texastribune.org/2011/02/03/the-rolling-chain-of-events-behind-texas-blackouts/

It was publicized that they had never tested for a winter event...and then recommendations and an agreement were made...that’s what I am trying to find.

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42 minutes ago, prairiewindmomma said:

I am trying to find the 2011 agreement with ERCOT. If anyone finds it (feds made recommendations after natural gas Wells froze during the super bowl week storm, ERCOT did not follow through on recommendations made...), could you link here?

This is what happened in 2011: https://www.texastribune.org/2011/02/03/the-rolling-chain-of-events-behind-texas-blackouts/

It was publicized that they had never tested for a winter event...and then recommendations and an agreement were made...that’s what I am trying to find.

This isn't the agreement, but about P 39 of this report Energy_Assurance_Plan-Texas.pdf I am finding some of the testing/planning that was done after the 2011 event.

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On 2/16/2021 at 6:55 PM, Clemsondana said:

I don't live in TX, but I've lived in several different states.  When people talk about houses being built differently, they are sometimes talking about things like high ceilings, open floorplans, windows set up for cross breezes, etc.  I've mostly lived in hot places where big rooms with high ceilings are great.  But, those are also hard to heat.  Our bedroom has a 2-story ceiling and it is lovely in the summer, but it's freezing in the winter.  There are also differences like the prevalence of fireplaces, how likely people are to have generators or non-electric indoor heaters (like kerosene heaters) that could take some of the load off of electric heat.  I've lived most of my life in places with all-electric.  We have gas for some things now, but my husband pointed out that if the electricity were to go out we'd still be without heat because the 'blowing hot air' part of  the heat is electric.  We would have the fireplace and the stove, though.  

Yes. We have gas heat. We got none while our electricity was out.

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On 2/16/2021 at 5:01 AM, RegGuheert said:

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.

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.

Here is an excellent analysis of the situation in Texas by an electrical utility planning engineer he is someone who plans for these types of events for a living.  It's a very good read which gives a flavor for what is involved with getting management to spring for contingency plans since they are costly and only pay off when there are significant events that occur.

While he mentions the above three issues from my header post in the article, he lays the blame squarely at the feet of ERCOTs "energy-only" electricity market.  He sums up the problem with this type of market right at the beginning of the article:

Quote

Who is responsible for providing adequate capacity in Texas during extreme conditions? The short answer is no one.

So the question becomes this:  If an energy-only electricity market does not incentivize energy providers to plan for extreme conditions, why is it being used?  Here is his answer:

Quote

When capacity value is rewarded, this makes the economics of renewables much less competitive. Texas has stacked the deck to make wind and solar more competitive than they could be in a system that better recognizes the value of dependable resources which can supply capacity benefits. An energy only market helps accomplish the goal of making wind and solar more competitive. Except capacity value is a real value. Ignoring that, as Texas did, comes with real perils.

In Texas now we are seeing the extreme shortages and market price spikes that can result from devaluing capacity. The impacts are increased by both having more intermittent resources which do not provide capacity and also because owners and potential owners of resources which could provide capacity are not incentivized to have those units ready for backup with firm energy supplies.

The bottom line is that Texas has restructured energy incentives so that wind and solar do not get penalized for not providing the ability to provide electricity under emergency conditions.  While this approach allowed wind and solar to flourish in Texas, it means that NO ONE now has ANY incentive to address the rare cases that ACTUALLY occur, such as what happened this week.

It is the best explanation I have yet seen for why the resources were not available to fill the desperate needs of the customers this week.

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47 minutes ago, RegGuheert said:

Here is an excellent analysis of the situation in Texas by an electrical utility planning engineer he is someone who plans for these types of events for a living.  It's a very good read which gives a flavor for what is involved with getting management to spring for contingency plans since they are costly and only pay off when there are significant events that occur.

If I'm understanding this guy's argument, he is saying that fossil fuels are preferable to renewables because there is greater capacity to meet unusual demand — you can always just burn more gas or coal to meet the increased demand. But it seems that in Texas, the gas and coal plants were actually the main problem, and the issue was lack of winterization. I've read multiple articles that said even though some wind turbines shut down due to cold, wind still provided more energy than would normally be expected in winter (I think the figures were 13% vs 10%). It was the loss of gas, coal, and nuclear plants that caused the actual outages, not the loss of a few wind turbines. And even the loss of wind power seems to be related to the lack of "winterization," since they work fine in much colder states and countries. Eliminating wind and solar energy would have had virtually no impact on the current crisis in Texas.

As for the lack of storage capacity for wind and solar (presumably due to the expense of batteries?), that is an issue we need to solve anyway for the future, because the supply of fossil fuels is not unlimited, and at some point we will no longer have a choice.

 

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50 minutes ago, Bootsie said:

Has anyone seen numbers for what the demand in electricity in Texas was this past week versus what is a normal demand and what was a projected peak demand?  

There is a lot of data available on Ercot's pages but I don't know how to get to actual demand other than today & yesterday's numbers. Feel free to nose around: http://www.ercot.com/gridinfo/load/forecast

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2 minutes ago, Corraleno said:

If I'm understanding this guy's argument, he is saying that fossil fuels are preferable to renewables because there is greater capacity to meet unusual demand — you can always just burn more gas or coal to meet the increased demand. But it seems that in Texas, the gas and coal plants were actually the main problem, and the issue was lack of winterization.

Perhaps you missed this part:

Quote

Anyone can look at Texas and observe that fossil fuel resources could have performed better in the cold. If those who owned the plants had secured guaranteed fuel, Texas would have been better off. More emergency peaking units would be a great thing to have on hand. Why would generators be inclined to do such a thing? Consider, what would be happening if the owners of gas generation had built sufficient generation to get through this emergency with some excess power? Instead of collecting $9,000 per MWH from existing functioning units, they would be receiving less than $100 per MWH for the output of those plants and their new plants. Why would anyone make tremendous infrastructure that would sit idle in normal years and serve to slash your revenue by orders of magnitudes in extreme conditions?

The point is that the energy-only market that is designed to level the playing field for renewables removes the incentives for ANYONE to provide emergency capacity.

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57 minutes ago, RegGuheert said:

The point is that the energy-only market that is designed to level the playing field for renewables removes the incentives for ANYONE to provide emergency capacity.

This guy (who refused to sign his name to that article) seems to be arguing that if only fossil fuel plants didn't have to compete with cheaper wind power, they'd have more "incentive" to spend money on winterizing gas and coal plants. As if they would do this out of the goodness of their hearts, instead of doing what they are doing now, which is choosing to maximize profits at the risk of significant loss of life and billions of dollars in damage. 

The "incentive" to ensure that ERCOT can provide stable and reliable energy to the state of Texas can, and should, come from the regulatory body that oversees them. The argument that since renewable energy providers do not currently have the technology to store power in order to meet peak demand, therefore the state can't require plants running on coal and gas to winterize their equipment makes no sense.  For that matter, there's no reason they can't require that wind energy providers winterize the turbines.  The fact that the board has repeatedly recommended, but never enforced, these changes in response to similar issues in the past reflects a failure on the part of the Texas legislature, not a reason to get rid of renewable energy.

 

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2 minutes ago, Corraleno said:

This guy (who refused to sign his name to that article) seems to be arguing that if we get rid of wind power, then fossil fuel plants won't have competition from cheaper energy, so they'll have more "incentive" to spend money on winterizing gas and coal plants. As if they would do this out of the goodness of their hearts, instead of doing what they are doing now, which is choosing to maximize profits at the risk of significant loss of life and billions of dollars in damage.

Why create a strawman?  He didn't suggest getting rid of wind power.  Here is what he actually said:

Quote

Unlike all other US energy markets, Texas does not even have a capacity market. By design they rely solely upon the energy market. This means that entities profit only from the actual energy they sell into the system. They do not see any profit from having stand by capacity ready to help out in emergencies.

Again, the point is this (which is the first quote I posted from this link):

Quote

Who is responsible for providing adequate capacity in Texas during extreme conditions? The short answer is no one.

As you see, he was very clear in saying that they will not "do this out of the goodness of their hearts".  That is what a capacity market incentivizes.

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re "the right time" to grapple with hard questions

On 2/17/2021 at 2:36 PM, SilverBrook said:

I am going to respectfully say that I don't think this is the right time to be discussing this.  We have people suffering and hopefully they are able to survive. I fear  some of our  disenfranchised people will  not live through this.    The weather has broken records that were set over 100 years ago and obviously things will need to be looked at.  It all seems like incredibly poor taste and disrespectful to the loss of life that our area is/will be experiencing.  

God willing we're past the worst by now.

This sentiment, though -- while perhaps rooted in the best of intentions -- has the effect of suppressing *any* grappling with the hard questions.  It's a sentiment that I've seen expressed after mass shootings, after shoddily built buildings have burned to the ground, after oil spills, after mine caves, after nuclear accidents.  And while I certainly recognize and honor the suffering of the victims, and I really do recognize that the sentiment of "not now" really may reflect the best of intentions, that sentiment also has the effect of tamping down any discussion of accountability this time, or -- equally crucial -- how we can do better next time.

And that tamping-down does not honor the victims.

 

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There  is an interesting quote in the link under the words "capacity market" in the Planning Engineer article:

Quote

They also settled on another battle-tested Texan value concerning its energy market: They wanted to be completely different from New York…and California, New England, and PJM for that matter.

And so it came to be that Texas would establish an energy-only market without a forward capacity market. In doing so, ERCOT became the only deregulated energy market in the US that is NOT overseen by the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission (FERC).

In the two-plus decades since ERCOT’s formation, naysayers in and out of Texas have been watching the Lone Star State with skeptical eyes, waiting for the perfect storm when a lack of forward-procured capacity proves fatal to grid stability.

When I read that, I thought: "hindsight is 20/20", but then I noticed the publication date: April 10, 2019.

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1 hour ago, RootAnn said:

There is a lot of data available on Ercot's pages but I don't know how to get to actual demand other than today & yesterday's numbers. Feel free to nose around: http://www.ercot.com/gridinfo/load/forecast

Sorry if this is on her twice; I thought I responded, but now I don't see my response.

Thanks for the data.  It looks as if the past day's data is available and then each month data is made available for the entire previous month--so you can get hourly data from January.  The average usage in January was about 41,000 with a standard deviation of 4700.  The peak demand for yesterday/today is over 60,000  I think the worst of the cold is over, so I would assume it was much greater than 60,000 Sunday-Tuesday.  Just today's peak is about 4 standard deviations above the mean for the month of January.  So, it is a SIGNIFICANTLY larger demand this week.

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12 minutes ago, Bootsie said:

And so much for mail delivery during rain, sleet, and snow.... we did not have any delivery for at least three days.  

We missed 3 days of mail this week too. But that's no abnormal for ice on the back roads in my area.

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5 hours ago, Bootsie said:

And so much for mail delivery during rain, sleet, and snow.... we did not have any delivery for at least three days.  

I ordered an item off EBay last Friday. The (Texas-based) seller issued a tracking number immediately but must have had it set to be picked up on Tuesday (Monday being a holiday). It finally shows picked up yesterday (this Friday). I'm hopeful the seller has enough food, water, and dry shelter.

Having grown up a newspaper carrier, I have nothing but respect for the trash guys & the mail carriers who have to go out on bad roads & in nasty weather the rest of us get to stay home in. 

Edited by RootAnn
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3 hours ago, RootAnn said:

Having grown up a newspaper carrier, I have nothing but respect for the trash guys & the mail carriers who have to go out on bad roads & in nasty weather the rest of us get to stay home in. 

When DS30 was about 16 years old, there was a terrible accident "next door" (about 1/4 mile away), in which two cousins, a boy and a girl, who were 16 years old failed to negotiate a curve and drove into a stone pillar.  They were on their paper route.  The accident happened at about 5AM and both died at the scene.

We didn't learn of the accident until we read about it in the newspaper, but I believe it traumatized DS30 to hear that young people his age had died so close to home.  He did not get his license until years later.

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10 hours ago, RootAnn said:

Having grown up a newspaper carrier, I have nothing but respect for the trash guys & the mail carriers who have to go out on bad roads & in nasty weather the rest of us get to stay home in. 

I did not mean my comment to be a criticism of those providing these essential services, which I realize it may have sounded like.  I was meaning to point out these conditions are MUCH different than Texas is used to,  I have heard a lot of comments that this is a once-in-a-decade, or even more often event, that Texans should have been prepared for, and it is unlike anything I have seen in my lifetime.  We did not have trash service this week--or postal service for at least three days, I don't know that I have ever seen anything like that before; this goes far beyond Texans not having wool socks, hats, snow boots, and jackets.  It went well beyond electrical issues.  

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1 hour ago, Bootsie said:

I did not mean my comment to be a criticism of those providing these essential services, which I realize it may have sounded like.  I was meaning to point out these conditions are MUCH different than Texas is used to,  I have heard a lot of comments that this is a once-in-a-decade, or even more often event, that Texans should have been prepared for, and it is unlike anything I have seen in my lifetime.  We did not have trash service this week--or postal service for at least three days, I don't know that I have ever seen anything like that before; this goes far beyond Texans not having wool socks, hats, snow boots, and jackets.  It went well beyond electrical issues.  

We got mail for the first time since last Saturday, so 7 days. No trash service either.  Newspaper has been digital with no delivery for anyone for my town or neighboring town until MAYBE tomorrow.  They said they would get it to areas that are cleared, which means probably not my house. No water in town so no businesses open.  Distributed free water today, but out by noon.  Our grocery store and Walmart have no milk, eggs, bread, meat, etc.  It is beginning to thaw, so hopefully our town might get stocked by Monday.

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I mean, I live in Maine and we don’t always get mail or trash service after a big storm either. That doesn’t seem unusual to me, even though what we typically experience is less severe than what you’ve just been through and we are prepared for it. When we lived in eastern Canada I think we went for a week or so without mail after the boxes were buried. 
 

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The peak energy demand in the month of February 2011 for ERCOT was at 8:00am on Feb 10 at 57,284.  All of the information for February 2021 is not yet available in one Excel file, but there were numbers last Sunday, February 14, 3032, before some places in Texas started getting freezing temperatures above 69,000--so about 20% more than the peak in 2011.  

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On 2/16/2021 at 5:27 PM, Farrar said:

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?

I can't speak for homes built before the 90s, but "Texas houses don't have insulation" is baloney.  We have insulation codes just like everywhere else, and selling an old home is tough if it doesn't have proper insulation.  My FIL's house was built in 1965, and it had both wall insulation and attic insulation. Of course the attic insulation had to be topped off with blown insulation due to compaction, but there was batting insulation in the attic. 

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On 2/20/2021 at 1:13 AM, RootAnn said:

There is a lot of data available on Ercot's pages but I don't know how to get to actual demand other than today & yesterday's numbers. Feel free to nose around: http://www.ercot.com/gridinfo/load/forecast

That link now gives "Error 16: Access Denied", with an email address to send a "valid business reason for accessing ERCOT resources". This seems... ...peculiar practice. (I would have expected crisis management to involve talking about what is happening, not shutting off information sources).

Edited by ieta_cassiopeia
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7 hours ago, Halftime Hope said:

I can't speak for homes built before the 90s, but "Texas houses don't have insulation" is baloney.  We have insulation codes just like everywhere else, and selling an old home is tough if it doesn't have proper insulation.  My FIL's house was built in 1965, and it had both wall insulation and attic insulation. Of course the attic insulation had to be topped off with blown insulation due to compaction, but there was batting insulation in the attic. 

I just want to point out again that you can have all the insulation in the world and your pipes can freeze in cold weather.

On 2/17/2021 at 2:23 AM, RegGuheert said:

There is also something about insulation that I don't think many people are aware of (including many who install insulation in warm climates!):  Even a well-insulated house will have its pipes freeze in cold weather if the pipes are not installed closer to the indoor sides of the walls and the insulation is stuffed on the outside of the pipes.

In fact, it's not O.K. to put the pipes in the middle of the wall and have insulation both on the inside and outside of the pipe.  While that is better than having the pipe toward the cold side of the wall, it sets up what is known as a "thermal divider" where the temperature at the pipe goes to the average of the inside and the outside temperatures.  For instance, if you insulate a pipe equally on the inside and outside and you have 0F outside and 50F inside, your pipe will still freeze because the temperature at the pipe will be 25F.

The simple fact is that many houses are built "up north" that have a pipe or two that has been improperly insulated and that fact is not discovered for YEARS because the right weather conditions did not exist for that pipe to freeze.  Those problems are handled on a case-by-case basis, corrected, and then that house is good going forward.

Since Texas recently received weather that was more extreme than had occurred since many (most?) of the houses there had been built, ALL of the construction got tested at the same time.  Likely many installers were not insulating pipes correctly, but the problems never led to catastrophic failures before.

I will liken this to when we had an earthquake here in Virginia some years back:  We do not build structures to the earthquake standards as California does and basically every structure in the area was tested all at the same time.  Compare that with California where structures are repeatedly tested by earthquakes: the poorly-built or poorly-designed ones are long gone and only the strong survive.  The same happens with water pipes further north.  But places like Dallas or Houston just got all their pipes tested all at once just like we got all our buildings tested all at once.

On top of all that there were houses in Texas that got down to below freezing INSIDE the house.  Once that happens, all the pipes are doomed.  Perhaps some PEX pipes can withstand that, but even those might burst.

Edited by RegGuheert
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7 minutes ago, ieta_cassiopeia said:

That link now gives "Error 16: Access Denied", with an email address to send a "valid business reason for accessing ERCOT resources". This seems... ...peculiar practice. (I would have expected crisis management to involve talking about what is happening, not shutting off information sources).

Typical...

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10 hours ago, Halftime Hope said:

I can't speak for homes built before the 90s, but "Texas houses don't have insulation" is baloney.  We have insulation codes just like everywhere else, and selling an old home is tough if it doesn't have proper insulation.  My FIL's house was built in 1965, and it had both wall insulation and attic insulation. Of course the attic insulation had to be topped off with blown insulation due to compaction, but there was batting insulation in the attic. 

Of course all homes have insulation, but the type and amount vary by region.  We just moved to TX from WA.  In WA we had spray insulation on all of our outside walls.  That really helps keeps the houses warm.   Our house here in TX is 3 years newer.  I can put my hands on the outside walls and feel the cold.  My tile floors in my bathrooms are freezing and uncomfortable to walk on without socks.   In WA my tile were always walkable and not freezing cold like here.  I would turn my heat off at 7:00 am and back on at 4pm and it would only drop 5-6 degrees, even on the coldest days.  Here Even with the cycling electricity I could not get my house abouve 60.   For us it wasn't an issue bc we have all the cold weather gear, sub zero sleeping bags, headlamps, long underware, warm jammies etc.  In WA we have had power outages that lasted up to 7 days.  The lowest the house ever got was 45.  Heck we would go on vaction in December and leave the heat turned off for 2 weeks and it was still 45/50 when we got back.  

There is a difference.  All insulation is not the same.

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3 hours ago, ieta_cassiopeia said:

That link now gives "Error 16: Access Denied", with an email address to send a "valid business reason for accessing ERCOT resources". This seems... ...peculiar practice. (I would have expected crisis management to involve talking about what is happening, not shutting off information sources).

 

3 hours ago, RegGuheert said:

Typical...

The link works for me now, though I don't see the daily energy use and some files aren't opening for me. ERCOT is now being sued. This is one lawsuit. I've heard of others, too. 

 

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35 minutes ago, Plateau Mama said:

Of course all homes have insulation, but the type and amount vary by region.  We just moved to TX from WA.  In WA we had spray insulation on all of our outside walls.  That really helps keeps the houses warm.   Our house here in TX is 3 years newer.  I can put my hands on the outside walls and feel the cold.  My tile floors in my bathrooms are freezing and uncomfortable to walk on without socks.   In WA my tile were always walkable and not freezing cold like here.  I would turn my heat off at 7:00 am and back on at 4pm and it would only drop 5-6 degrees, even on the coldest days.  Here Even with the cycling electricity I could not get my house abouve 60.   For us it wasn't an issue bc we have all the cold weather gear, sub zero sleeping bags, headlamps, long underware, warm jammies etc.  In WA we have had power outages that lasted up to 7 days.  The lowest the house ever got was 45.  Heck we would go on vaction in December and leave the heat turned off for 2 weeks and it was still 45/50 when we got back.  

There is a difference.  All insulation is not the same.

That tells us one of two things:  either your old home was a custom build to some degree OR your municipality required the R rating provided by the spray foam.  We have municipal codes designed for the majority of our weather.  That doesn't mean we are uninsulated, and without going back to the original post I was responding to, that's pretty much what the other poster said. 

Texas also has   relatively affordable housing, which is due, in part, to not overbuilding for our normal conditions.   

We (hubby and I) had spent two years designing an energy-efficient house, quite small but everything we'd need. Hundreds and hundreds of hours of building science research, design iterations, product research, etc.  Ultimately, building it would have meant my husband having to work another four years in the hell-hole that was his job.  So we are continuing in our less efficient home, and we've done most everything we can to prepare to survive bad outages.     

These are the real-world trade-offs. 

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35 minutes ago, Halftime Hope said:

 

That tells us one of two things:  either your old home was a custom build to some degree OR your municipality required the R rating provided by the spray foam.  We have municipal codes designed for the majority of our weather.  That doesn't mean we are uninsulated, and without going back to the original post I was responding to, that's pretty much what the other poster said. 

Texas also has   relatively affordable housing, which is due, in part, to not overbuilding for our normal conditions.   

We (hubby and I) had spent two years designing an energy-efficient house, quite small but everything we'd need. Hundreds and hundreds of hours of building science research, design iterations, product research, etc.  Ultimately, building it would have meant my husband having to work another four years in the hell-hole that was his job.  So we are continuing in our less efficient home, and we've done most everything we can to prepare to survive bad outages.     

These are the real-world trade-offs. 

Umm, I think we are saying the same thing.  In WA my house was built to withstand colder temperatures.  Our summer temps average in the 70's so we do not need to worry about the few days we hit 90.  And no, I did not have a custom home in WA, and yes, the spray foam was required.  The year we built our home they had just started requiring it for fire purposes.  Here in TX you do not build for long term sub zero temps, therefore the insulation requirements are not the same and that is why I can feel the cold seeping through my walls.  I don't expect TX to get below zero for days on and and I do not want to pay to have my house built like it will.  I will just suck it up for the few cold days we get.  I will be the first to admit that we got lucky, very lucky not having any damage.  On the other hand, part of that was I had knowledge of what to do in cold weather that most Texans do not.  I opened cabinets, dripped faucets, closed blinds and doors to rooms etc, long before the news started telling people to do it.  

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3 hours ago, Plateau Mama said:

Of course all homes have insulation, but the type and amount vary by region.  We just moved to TX from WA.  In WA we had spray insulation on all of our outside walls.  That really helps keeps the houses warm.   Our house here in TX is 3 years newer.  I can put my hands on the outside walls and feel the cold.  My tile floors in my bathrooms are freezing and uncomfortable to walk on without socks.   In WA my tile were always walkable and not freezing cold like here.  I would turn my heat off at 7:00 am and back on at 4pm and it would only drop 5-6 degrees, even on the coldest days.  Here Even with the cycling electricity I could not get my house abouve 60.   For us it wasn't an issue bc we have all the cold weather gear, sub zero sleeping bags, headlamps, long underware, warm jammies etc.  In WA we have had power outages that lasted up to 7 days.  The lowest the house ever got was 45.  Heck we would go on vaction in December and leave the heat turned off for 2 weeks and it was still 45/50 when we got back.  

There is a difference.  All insulation is not the same.

Are the colder tiles on the floor an insulation issue or are they because of the way that homes are heated?  In Texas our heat blows warm air through the vents in the ceiling, providing a lot of warmth at the ceiling, and usually enough warmth for a Texas home.  Yes, the floors are much cooler than the ceilings (which is great in a Texas summer).  When I have been in places that have heated floors, floor heating vents, or radiators near floor level, the floors in those homes are much warmer.  

We are so lucky that we have not had power or heat problems in our home with this storm.  We did have problems in a rental home a few years ago.  We had dripped the faucets in the house, but there was freezing at the water meter which we had no control over, so we didn't have water for several days.  

 

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1 hour ago, Bootsie said:

Are the colder tiles on the floor an insulation issue or are they because of the way that homes are heated?  In Texas our heat blows warm air through the vents in the ceiling, providing a lot of warmth at the ceiling, and usually enough warmth for a Texas home.  Yes, the floors are much cooler than the ceilings (which is great in a Texas summer).  When I have been in places that have heated floors, floor heating vents, or radiators near floor level, the floors in those homes are much warmer.  

We are so lucky that we have not had power or heat problems in our home with this storm.  We did have problems in a rental home a few years ago.  We had dripped the faucets in the house, but there was freezing at the water meter which we had no control over, so we didn't have water for several days.  

 

I am sure the overhead vents contribute, but I do think it is an insulation issue or some other build difference.  In our other house, even when the power was out the tile never seemed as cold as it is here.  As in I could always walk on it barefoot and it wasn't unbearable.  Here in TX I have to put socks or slippers on before going into the bathrooms in the winter.  I grew up in a house with all tile/wood so I don't mind doing it but my husband complains nonstop about how cold the tile is.  He is from Florida so he is a cold wimp.

 

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