Once you know that almost 50% of the Texas blackout consisted of shutdown renewable energy systems, it becomes easier to grasp the big picture of the event in semi-technical terms. Activist blogger and businessman Karl Denninger provides a colorful description:
Texas, like so many other areas, has put up windmills and solar “farms” for the last 20 years, shutting down older coal-fired plants and not modernizing and improving their “fossil fuel” energy production infrastructure. At the same time on a national basis the natural gas pipeline operators, in service to the woke green mob, have replaced fuel-fired pumps (that run on the gas in the pipe, therefore are failsafe so long as the pipe has something in it and is intact) with electrically powered booster pumps because, of course, you can get the power for them from “green” sources instead of all that eeee-vile carbon.
I remind you that natural gas does not freeze at other than cryogenic temperatures and as such the problem is not the gas freezing and as for machinery you have plenty of heat source in the pipe. By putting up with and responding to the “woke mob” instead of immediately frying and eating their entire blood line these companies took an ultra-reliable and essential energy delivery system that other than by physical destruction would nearly-always continue to operate and turned it into a fragile system dependent on multiple outside elements where if any of those elements failed so does the natural gas delivery.
Winter in the south is when nuclear plants are typically taken down for maintenance as well — since it’s the middle of summer when the A/C is blasting away. But those NatGas peaking plants and coal-fired base load infrastructure, well…. it’s not green enough, so let’s turn that stuff off and rely on the windmills and solar panels — and hope it doesn’t get destabilized.
Of course the “Globull Warming” screamfest folks always and forever have prognosticated that it will forever get warmer, that wind levels will rise forever and thus both solar panels and wind will forevermore continue to yield more and more useful energy.
All of that got blown up this week.
Texas is seeing wind chills in negative (Fahrenheit) numbers along with single digit or below temperatures. That plus moisture = ice, and windmill blades are wings and not only suffer the same problem an airplane wing does when it gets loaded in addition they go out of balance and thus the windmill has to be shut down lest it destroy itself. At the same time ice and snow cover solar panels and reduce their output to an effective zero.
The problem with the power grid is that in the event you demand more of it than can be delivered it becomes unstable due to a number of factors including, in the case of AC transmission, phase sag. If expected resources are not available — such as when your wind turbines ice up — then you have no alternative but to shed load (turn off people’s power intentionally) because if you don’t you will get an uncontrolled collapse and possible severe equipment damage. Further most nuclear plants cannot quickly load-follow — if you need more power quickly you better have something else, and if a bunch of load drops off rapidly you better have some other generation source you can shut down. Go outside the operating parameters and a nuke plant will “trip” and if they do most of them cannot immediately restart due to a phenomena called “xenon poisoning”; if the fuel has some age on it you must wait until that bleeds off because the core does not have enough reactivity to go critical until it does, which can take a couple of days or even more.
That’s exactly what happened.
The term phase sag may be unfamiliar. I couldn’t find a definition, but it appears to be a contraction of the longer phrase, single phase voltage sag. AC power typically consists of three separate energy streams, called phases. I take it, then, that phase sag refers to a voltage drop in one of the phases. Voltage sags and swells occur in milliseconds, and can damage the equipment used to control the total power output. I imagine technical problems arise, too, when unbalanced AC power is added to balanced AC power. Point being, phase sags, when detected, may require shutting down infrastructure.
I suppose it is possible to design anti-fragile electrical grids that incorporate renewable energy. A terrestrial design, however, would have to consist of a standalone fossil fuel-based system, with renewables-based systems added around the edges for use only during favorable weather conditions. Given these constraints (both technical and economic), space-based solar power generation looks like a more elegant solution.