E How Wind Power Caused The Great Texas Blackout Of 2021-Part I

  • The State of Texas is suffering from a catastrophic power grid failure that’s left 4.3 million homes without electricity, including 1.3 million homes in Houston, the country’s fourth-largest city.
  • While talking heads, politicians, and the press are blaming fossil fuels and claiming that more renewables are the solution, hard data from the Energy Information Administration paints a very different picture.
  • The generation failures that led to The Great Texas Blackout of 2021 began at 6 pm on Sunday. Wind power fell from 36% of nameplate capacity to 22% before midnight and plummeted to 3% of nameplate capacity by 8 pm on Monday.
  • While power producers quickly ramped production to almost 90% of dedicated natural gas capacity, a combination of factors including shutdowns for scheduled maintenance and a statewide increase in natural gas demand began to overload safety systems and set-off a cascade of shutdowns.
  • While similar overload-induced shutdowns followed suit in coal and nuclear plants, the domino effect began with ERCOT’s reckless reliance on unreliable wind power.

The State of Texas is currently suffering from a catastrophic power grid failure that’s left 1 in 3 customers without electricity for days. In my hometown of Houston, the fourth-largest city in the country, over 50% of households have suffered. I only lost power for 40 hours and consider myself fortunate. While it’s fair to say I’m irritated by the inconvenience, this article will focus on incontrovertible facts that prove ERCOT’s reckless reliance on unreliable wind power caused The Great Texas Blackout of 2021.

The ERCOT grid has 85,281 MW of operational generating capacity if no plants are offline for scheduled maintenance. Under the “Winter Fuel Types” tab of its Capacity, Demand and Reserves Report dated December 16, 2020, ERCOT described its operational generating capacity by fuel source as follows:

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Alpha Stockman 1 month ago Member's comment

Excellent read.

Wendell Brown 2 months ago Member's comment

Thanks for the info. However: to say 'wind power caused the blackout' is ludicrous. The utilities' RELIANCE on windpower is the problem. I bet houses with solar panels on their roofs have trouble when they're covered with snow too. Etc. Please make the case that the information supports and don't go down the rabbithole of 'alternate energy bad! fossil good!' - that just appeals to the lowest common denominator. Make your case more elegantly, please.

John Petersen 2 months ago Author's comment

Wendell Brown, At 6:00 pm on Valentine's Day, wind power in Texas was 9,015 MW or 36% of nameplate capacity. By midnight on Valentine's Day, wind power had fallen to 5,450 MW or 22% of nameplate capacity. By noon on the 15th wind power had fallen to 3,185 MW or 16% of nameplate capacity. By 8:00 pm on the 15th wind power had fallen to 649 MW or 3% of nameplate capacity.

That catastrophic decline in wind power production coupled with rapidly rising demand triggered overload safety systems in all classes of power generation assets. Natural gas went down first, then coal, then nuclear.

Whether you like it or not, failures in wind kicked off a domino-effect chain reaction that damned near took down the entire ERCOT grid.

I'm sorry if my writing style does not live up to your standards, but I think the case has been made clearly and elegantly. If you disagree, please feel free to do your own research using EIA quality data sources and prove the argument you wish to make.

Wendell Brown 2 months ago Member's comment

Sincere thanks for the response, John.

I'm not defending wind power. My question reflects my frustration in trying to understand why this wasn't anticipated before the utilities putting such a high degree of reliance on wind power. I don't know anything about utilities in Texas and would love to know how, in a state that I wouldn't think of as particularly 'green'-loving, this came to be.

After our long ugly political season, I guess I just want responsibility to be more of an issue. If you can share any links for my education I'd appreciate it.

John Petersen 2 months ago Author's comment

Texas has good wind characteristics, favorable pricing and priorities for wind and solar power, and lots of wide-open space, so it's been a dream destination for wind developers for decades. ERCOT has no planning authority. It merely buys power from thousands of producers and sends it to hundreds of local utilities. Since wind power is treated as "more equal" than fossil-fueled power, wind producers can literally force fossil fuel plants to shut down. On a typical winter day, they expect wind to represent less than 1 GW of power supply. On Valentine's day that number was 9 GW and when the turbines started freezing all hell broke loose, or if you prefer hell froze over.

The public has been pretty tolerant of green idealism in the past. I don't expect that trend to continue after millions of us spent a long week freezing in the dark.

James Sinclair 2 months ago Member's comment

Great read.

John Petersen 2 months ago Author's comment

Thanks for the kind words, James. I was a little concerned that I might be kicking a hornet's nest with this one.

James Sinclair 2 months ago Member's comment

I enjoyed it and your explanations in the comments section. Thanks.