America’s Big Chill: Wind Turbines Frozen Solid & Solar Panels Plastered In Snow & Ice
America’s big freeze has wind and solar worshippers scrambling for excuses and shifting blame like snow from their driveways.
Following on from Germany’s recent near-death experience, Americans are now realizing – with terrifying clarity – just how crazy brave relying on wholly weather-dependent power sources really is.
Particularly when bitter Arctic weather blankets a continent in snow and ice and everybody becomes desperate for every last kilojoule of available energy, just to stay alive.
As we reported a few weeks back, a total collapse in wind and solar output has left freezing Germans demanding access to the only reliable power sources in town: coal-fired power from their own remaining plants or drawn in from Poland, and power siphoned off from France’s fleet of ever-reliable nuclear plants.
Germany’s 30,000 wind turbines and millions of solar panels have turned out to be the most expensive Vanity Project in history. And, in the midst of freezing breathless conditions, the source of a mortal risk so obvious that continuing to ignore it is flat out criminal.
And yet. Another day, another continent, another brewing disaster.
Our 9 February post on the German fiasco has picked up around 48,000 views (so far), with most of the interest coming from North America.
Prescient these people must have been, because, barely a week, later the USA copped a dose of the same medicine.
As the polar vortex blasted south across the continent, it dumped snow and ice that left millions of solar panels looking like bizarre Christmas decorations and, of course, utterly useless. So, solar power was clearly off the menu.
Across the Mid-West and down into Texas the frigid air took its toll on tens of thousands of these things, with a very large proportion of them frozen solid. Again, leaving desperate power consumers having to look elsewhere to ward off the big freeze.
The usual suspects in the mainstream media fed us the, as to be expected, selective half-baked drivel about gas being at fault, with a few attempting to blame a man who hasn’t been their President for over a month now. Go figure.
Most of the MSM stories STT has read on the subject deliberately downplay or completely overlook the fact that wind and solar output was somewhere between nil and trivial. As to which we will provide the details on just how trivial below.
Remember this is the same crowd who keep telling us, over and over, that fossil-fuelled power is dead as the dodo and that we’re all just a heartbeat (and a few million TWhs worth of mythical mega-batteries) away from our ‘inevitable transition’ to an all wind and sun powered future. The only thing ‘inevitable’ about this self-inflicted calamity is that there will be a very solid uptick in number of frozen grannies in the winters to come.
Here’s a couple of stories on how the ‘inevitable transition’ is panning out in the Texas Panhandle and beyond.
A Deep Green Freeze
Wall Street Journal Editorial Board
17 February 2021
Gas and power prices have spiked across the central U.S. while Texas regulators ordered rolling blackouts Monday as an Arctic blast has frozen wind turbines. Herein is the paradox of the left’s climate agenda: The less we use fossil fuels, the more we need them.
A mix of ice and snow swept across the country this weekend as temperatures plunged below zero in the upper Midwest and into the teens in Houston. Cold snaps happen — the U.S. also experienced a Polar Vortex in 2019 — as do heat waves. Yet the power grid is becoming less reliable due to growing reliance on wind and solar, which can’t provide power 24 hours a day, seven days a week.
While Texas is normally awash in gas and oil, the Electric Reliability Council of Texas, which oversees the state’s wholesale power market, urged residents this weekend to conserve power to avoid power outages. Regulators rationed gas for commercial and industrial uses to ensure fuel for power plants and household heating.
Texas’s energy emergency could last all week as the weather is forecast to remain frigid. “My understanding is, the wind turbines are all frozen,” Public Utility Commission Chairman DeAnn Walker said Friday. “We are working already to try and ensure we have enough power but it’s taken a lot of co-ordination.”
Blame a perfect storm of bad government policies, timing and weather. Coal and nuclear are the most reliable sources of power. But competition from heavily subsidized wind power and inexpensive natural gas, combined with stricter emissions regulation, has caused coal’s share of Texas’s electricity to plunge by more than half in a decade to 18%.
Wind’s share has tripled to about 25% since 2010 and accounted for 42% of power last week before the freeze set in. About half of Texans rely on electric pumps for heating, which liberals want to mandate everywhere. But the pumps use a lot of power in frigid weather. So while wind turbines were freezing, demand for power was surging.
Gas-fired power plants ramped up, but the Arctic freeze increased demand for gas across the country. Producers couldn’t easily increase supply since a third of rigs across the country were taken out of production during the pandemic amid lower energy demand. Some gas wells and pipelines in Texas and Oklahoma also shut down in frosty conditions.
Enormous new demand coupled with constrained supply caused natural gas spot prices to spike to nearly $600 per million British thermal units in the central U.S. from about $3 a couple weeks ago. Future wholesale power prices in Texas for early this week soared to $9,000 per megawatt hour from a seasonal average of $25.
Prices jumped in the Midwest too, though less dramatically because there are more coal and nuclear plants. Illinois and Michigan have more gas storage than Texas, which exports much of its shale gas to other states and, increasingly, around the world in liquefied form.
Europe and Asia are also importing more fossil fuels for heat and power this winter. U.S. LNG exports increased 25% year-over-year in December while prices tripled in northern Asian spot markets and doubled in Europe. Germany’s public broadcasting recently reported that “Germany’s green energies strained by winter.”
The report noted that power is “currently coming mainly from coal, and the power plants in Lausitz” are now “running at full capacity.”
Coal still accounts for 60% of China’s energy, and imports tripled in December. China has some 250 gigawatts of coal-fired plants under development, enough to power all of Germany. Unlike Democrats in the U.S., Chinese leaders understand that fossil fuels are needed to support intermittent renewables.
“Power shortages and incredibly high spot gas prices this winter are reminding governments, businesses and consumers of the importance of coal,” a Wood Mackenzie consultant told Reuters recently.
California progressives long ago banished coal. But a heat wave last summer strained the state’s power grid as wind flagged and solar ebbed in the evenings. After imposing rolling blackouts, grid regulators resorted to importing coal power from Utah and running diesel emergency generators.
Liberals claim that prices of renewables and fossil fuels are now comparable, which may be true due to subsidies, but they are no free lunch, as this week’s energy emergency shows. The Biden Administration’s plan to banish fossil fuels is a greater existential threat to Americans than climate change.
Did Frozen Wind Turbines Impact the Texas Freeze? Here’s the Data
17 February 2021
Wednesday morning more than 1.3 million electric power customers across Texas remain without power during the coldest winter storm in decades. Gov. Greg Abbott put all of Texas’ 254 counties under a disaster declaration as the state has been hammered with a series of major and historic winter storms. The reasons for the collapse of the Electric Reliability Council of Texas (ERCOT) grid are still being debated, and it’s certain that there is more than one cause and more information will come out.
But one of the most contested issues is the role wind generation has played. Prior to the onset of the storm last week, Texas led the nation in wind power generation and depended on the wind turbines in West-Central and Western Texas, along with a smaller number of turbines along the Gulf Coast, for about 25% of its electricity. As wind power has increased, coal-powered generation plants have been taken offline around the state. Texas has abundant coal, oil, and natural gas, and also has nuclear plants near Dallas and near Houston.
Real-time data from the U.S. Energy Information Administration shows that wind power collapsed as the winter storm swept across the state.
EIA data showing the collapse of wind power generation in Texas’ winter storm.
To understand the graph, the very top line, beige, is natural gas power generation. Hydroelectric is the barely perceptible blue line at the bottom. Wind is the green line; coal is brown. Nuclear power is purple.
The graph clearly shows all forms of power generation dipped, with wind power collapsing from Monday to Tuesday before recovering somewhat. Meanwhile, natural gas, coal, and nuclear power generation also dipped but continued generating power. Gas pipelines and a cooling system at the STP nuclear plant outside Houston did suffer the effects of the extreme cold.This graphic tells a similar story. Wind, again, is in green.
As the graph plainly shows, wind generation choked down but natural gas compensated. Coal and even nuclear power generation dipped. Solar generation has been negligible due to cloud cover and several inches of snow and ice.
The cold has created extreme demand across the state. During most winter storms, the Panhandle, West Texas, and even North Texas around Dallas and above toward Paris may get cold but Central and South Texas could remain well above freezing. This has not happened during the current series of storms. The entire state is in a deep freeze, with snow appearing even on Galveston Island’s beach. Galveston averages lows of about 50 degrees and highs in the mid-60s during a typical February. It’s 37 degrees in Galveston as I write this, well below average. Austin has seen single-digit temperatures at night.
To put all of this into some perspective, the storm that dumped more than six inches of ice and snow on Austin Sunday night would, by itself, have been a historic storm. It dropped more snow on the capital than any other storm since 1949. It was preceded by a major cold snap and has been followed by more extreme cold and then another ice and snow storm Tuesday night. Texas has not suffered a single historic winter storm over the past several days, but a series of them without any warming in between. It’s unlikely to get above freezing in the Austin area until Friday. Points north may stay below freezing for a couple of days after that. This is putting more demand on the grid.
Add to all of this, when Texas gets winter storms it usually doesn’t just get snow. Snow is fairly easy to deal with. Texas also gets ice, which can snap electric lines and break trees and tree branches, which also can fall on and break power lines. A tree in my yard is bent over by ice to the point that it looks like an invisible hand is holding it down. We can expect the ice to kill off millions of trees around the state. The ice layers also render most roads impassable. All of this is very unusual for Texas, but not unprecedented. The winter of 1836 was notably harsh; Santa Anna reportedly encountered deep snow as he marched his army toward San Antonio.
Most winters, Austin will have a few cold days but no snow. Central Texas is known to go entire winters without anyone having to so much as scrape any frost off their car windshield. Austin has had two significant snowstorms in 2021, with the current one being historic by any measure.
Piecing known information together, the wind turbines in Western Texas froze up starting Friday before the icy snowstorm hit, on Sunday night to Monday morning. This destabilized the Texas grid ahead of the worst of the storm. The storm produced the temperatures and precipitation the forecasts expected, but with weakened power generation and demand skyrocketing to heat millions of homes, homes which for the most part are not insulated against the current level of cold temperatures, the grid was set up to suffer mightily as it’s not hardened against extreme cold such as this once-in-a-century storm series is delivering.
Gov. Abbott has ordered a thorough investigation of ERCOT and the Texas Legislature will begin holding hearings next week. Texas’ dependence on wind power generation is likely to come under heavy scrutiny. The fact that many of the ERCOT board live outside Texas is already coming under heavy fire. Texas having its own power grid will likely come under scrutiny as well.
Addendum: I should add that we know production in the Permian decreased very significantly too, with demand surging and all significant power sources dipping — and wind and solar dipping more than the other sources. So Texas experienced a confluence of unusual events that pushed the grid statewide far beyond normal tolerances. Opportunists such as AOC and Beto O’Rourke are deliberately politicizing the storm. Neither actually understands energy. Both understand rank dishonesty.
Bryan Preston served as chief of staff to Texas Railroad Commissioner Ryan Sitton. The Texas Railroad Commission regulates oil and gas production in the Lone Star State, which is the nation’s top energy-producing state. He is the author of Hubble’s Revelations: The Amazing Time Machine and Its Most Important Discoveries. He’s a veteran, author, and Texan.