Texas February 2021

I’ve been watching the news out of Texas - they lost 30 GW of generation capacity due to freezing conditions and are now at EEA 3 - rolling blackouts.

Read that 60% of homes in TX do not have gas heat.

http://www.ercot.com/ That graph doesn’t look good at all.

Wow! Am I understanding their chart right? 1,000MW in reserve, with current demand at ~50,000MW and climbing to over 70,000MW?texaspower
That is quite a shortage.

Is there much discussion as to why the cold is affecting generation so much? I found an article referencing how many wind turbines are shut down due to icing up, but surely that’s far from causing a 19,000MW shortage.

Natural gas lines have frozen. Solar is down because it was night until just recently. Wind is mostly offline because of icing on the blades. And demand is way up.

Clock time is 30s behind - the frequency dipped to 59.7 overnight.

Real-Time System Conditions Is what I’ve been watching.

Amusingly enough they appear to be blocking EU/world IPs because some disaster plan is in effect and they don’t want those dirty foreigners stealing their tcp/Ip power. :crazy_face:

Among the other markets moving on the cold:

  • Gas in Chicago hit $220 per mmBtu, traders said.
  • Physical gas was going for as much as $300 per mmBtu at a Texas hub.
  • Oklahoma gas prices have swung anywhere between $50 to the high of $600.
  • Spot gas prices across the eastern U.S. remained subdued amid milder temperatures, assessed at anywhere from $4 per to $12 per mmBtu on Friday, pricing data compiled by Bloomberg show.

Well that’s rich. Oh right, it’s only price gouging during an emergency when the little people do something like that, not when wall street does it.

Indeed! Once you can afford a few politicians, the world is your oyster!

These winter storm conditions are a real problem for renewables. You can meet your demand most of the year on wind/solar/hydro/some buffers, but then an inversion hits…

We need to find some way of making power from exceptionally low temperatures - perhaps from the pressure from ice somehow?

Also an issue is that ERCOT doesn’t seem to have much in the way of interconnects to other nearby grids, and so even if those grids have excess power generation, they can’t give it to ERCOT. Not sure why, whether it’s more technical or philosophical “Lone Star State” independence stuff.

Wikipedia says it’s “political” and I don’t doubt it. Supposedly by being their own thing they avoid oversight by the FERC.

Geothermal plants produce a good bit above rated power in the cold - their hot sides aren’t nearly so hot, meaning the difference between summer and winter cold side temperatures makes a difference.

In general, any sort of thermal plant will run better in the winter, at least until you start freezing up your cooling systems…

Relevant article on the topic:

Welp… guess that’ll teach them for relying on their warmer weather? :stuck_out_tongue:

At some point, “winterizing for abnormal conditions” is just wasted money. One might be (reasonably) laughed off the floor for suggesting that, say, Panama City winterize their power grid for below freezing conditions. Their lowest recorded temperature is 68F (20C).

How that works in Texas, well… we’re seeing the problems. Non-winterized natural gas systems are fine, right up until you really need it. Then it falls over. Every decade or two.

I’m also seeing a good bit of criticism of the “People on Griddy got $10k power bills” news articles doing the rounds lately. Griddy is literally the only power provider in Texas to pass wholesale power rates directly through to customers, and while I understand the appeal, they offer the sort of “limited upside, (nearly) unlimited downside” characteristics that stock shorting does. It works great, until it bites you in the rear and lights your rear end on fire.

If this whole thing with the $9000/MWh cap was news to you, you shouldn’t have been on that provider in the first place. It’s the sort of provider that someone like me, if I’d built out 100kWh of lead acid storage, with a propane tank and big backup generator, might use. With a live power price display in the house and pricing-aware appliances. In other words, it probably shouldn’t be a thing in the first place. On the other hand, if I’d built out my original system design in Texas and was on that sort of system, I would have cut all house loads, lit up the generator, attached every bit of power generation capability I had, and been exporting as much as I could at $9/kWh (at least until the grid segment went down). They even call this out on their website.


  1. Become a net generator when prices spike and get paid up to $9.00/kWh
    One of things we hate the most here at Griddy is when prices spike. However, with solar on your roof, you actually might welcome those spikes, as you can export to the grid and get paid that very high market price in the form of an energy credit. So when prices spike, you can either keep using electricity knowing that your solar is providing you with free electricity or you can turn off as much as you can, export it to the grid and have that one $9.00 hour pay for hundreds of hours of free electricity for you in the future as you bank that electricity credit.
    The only way to get that market value for your solar generation is through wholesale, like with Griddy. Other electricity providers will use net metering to simply give you a kWh credit. But with Griddy, that one spike per kilowatt hour can be worth hundreds of kilowatt hours.

But… as much as it pains me to admit, if something really appeals to me for some weird niche corner case optimization, it probably shouldn’t be offered as a general option for people.

But 10kWh of export, 3 days, at $9/kWh (again, assuming the grid was up), would have turned a tidy $6500, and even after propane/diesel/gasoline costs, still would have been a sold whomp of profit for the year. Just, most people aren’t set up for that sort of thing.

Exactly - Griddy is a form of “self-insurance” and should require a sizable bond to be able to “play”


Seen in some Idaho Power docs, the frequency charts for the Texas outage. Gross…


I like how afterwards they’re running at 60.1 - we’ll make it back up we swear give us time!!

Depending on the details of the regulatory environment, they may be required to do so.

For a long time, and perhaps still in some areas, there was a requirement that the cycle count over some window of time correspond to the time within a very tight tolerance. The power grid was more accurate than any clock, for a long while, though I’m not sure it still is. It seems to slip a few minutes over the summer here and not make it up.

Whoa crap, that’s a giant dip. No wonder they went into emergency “get rid of load” mode and had to stay that way for quite some time. That note in there about more generator units having to trip offline in a few more minutes…yeah…that could have been a death spiral for basically the entire section of the grid. And would have caused whatever limited interconnects they had to trip offline too, taking out nearly the entire state. shudder That’s the stuff of gird managers everywhere, I’m sure.

I think that’s the actual truth behind the “The grid was a few minutes from total collapse!” news articles out there, none of which offered much in the way of actual technical details. Exceeding the ride through windows for frequency certainly would do it…

There are some other interesting charts in here as well: https://docs.idahopower.com/pdfs/AboutUs/PlanningForFuture/irp/2021/2021_IRP_Industry_Issues.pdf

It seems to be a presentation from an Idaho Power meeting talking about what happened and how to avoid it.

In other “Huh, interesting…” news, Idaho Power seems to have shut down their NG turbines entirely for a day a couple days back, and brought them back at far lower power. They typically run 400-600MW of NG on the grid, pretty much year round. I’ve not seen it shut down like that before for a day.


Man those colors make an exceptionally hard to read graph.

On the live page, you can mouse over them and get more details. Meeting Your Energy Needs - Idaho Power

But, yes, the colors suck. And there’s another day without NG: 1AM to 5PM on March 3rd had no NG either.