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Did Texas get "lucky" and barely avoid a power system shutdown that could have lasted for months and affected 20 million Texans? An Insider Explains Why Texans Lost Their Power

Posted by freedomforall 1 week, 4 days ago to Politics
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"Your city gas company takes gas from high-pressure interstate and intrastate gas pipelines. The gas then moves to customers through its lower-pressured gas distribution pipes. The gas pressure decrease as it as moves to the customers. Normally the utilities' inlet gas pressure is more than enough for them to supply gas safely.

The utility's inlet pressures were so low, and dropping, that soon the distribution system pressures would be below atmospheric pressure. Air could then flow into the gas pipelines. Typically, back-flow valves stop that. Since many of the furnaces were old and converted from prior fuels (oil, coal), proper valving was a big problem.

Oxygen in natural pipelines is incredibly dangerous. Whole city blocks could be destroyed in an air/gas explosion.

To maintain safe gas pressures, the operators wanted to shed load with localized gas shutoffs. Since all non-critical gas loads had already been shutoff, only critical loads were left. This included houses and hospitals. To save the gas grid, the operators had to cutoff gas to a very large number of customers.

Whose gas to shut off?
...

If this sounds outlandish, here's the head of the Electric Reliability Council of Texas:

The fundamental decision made in the middle of the night on Monday to have outages imposed was a wise decision by the operators we have here, Magness said. If we had waited and not done those outages ... we could have drifted to blackout. That's not just outages, but we could lose all electricity on system, and it could take months or longer to repair that.

With a total ERCOT system failure, as many as 12 million customers and possibly 20 million Texans could be in the cold, in the dark, in their cars with nowhere to go — for months.

Wind power did this to Texas. Be very afraid of the Green New Deal."
SOURCE URL: https://www.americanthinker.com/articles/2021/02/an_insider_explains_why_texans_lost_their_power.html


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  • Posted by $ jbrenner 1 week, 1 day ago
    Every good engineer has backup plans for their backup plans for their backup plans. It should never have gotten this close to an explosion. Very shortsighted. Who is John Galt?
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  • Posted by Lucky 1 week, 4 days ago
    I still think my earlier note/lecture/diatribe is correct-

    Electricity power system engineers are told to use renewables. Some renewables are good and reliable such as hydro; solar and wind power are expensive and unreliable. The power output capability of the renewable stations is matched by a proper fueled station sitting ready to ramp up and take over. (Matched means equal or nearly so, statistical analysis reduces the need a bit).

    So when as in Texas recently, all solar panels are covered in snow, half of the wind generators have stopped as ice on the blades will unbalance and destroy the whole thing if the blades turn. From the system view, no big deal. That is what is expected and planned for. (Wasteful duplicate generation just costs money).
    The unexpected cold created problems with conventional generation. The real big problem was on the natural gas powered generators. Gas is moved in pipelines by compressor pumps, these are (best) powered by gas from the pipe. The Texas gas network ramped up very nicely, but then failed.-- Earlier, government had instructed that the compressors be powered, not by gas, but by electricity from wind turbines. Many of these failed. This was probably a retrofit action, it got overlooked by the system designers.

    So, the windmills are not the backup, the windmills are the primary source. The rules are that they have priority, the backup is the natural gas system. Yes, it is crass to use renewables which need 100% backup. But the disaster was that someone overlooked that the gas system, which is both the primary power source and the backup for renewables, was itself reliant on wind turbines.

    The American Thinker article is correct, all those complex issues exist. But the disaster was due to the government edict on replacing gas by wind to power the compressors.
    No one had considered the idea that any event which causes one wind generator to fail could cause all to fail.
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    • Posted by mspalding 1 week, 1 day ago
      That sounds odd. Wind is intermittent. How could you use them to power natural gas pumps. The pumps run continuously.
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      • Posted by Lucky 6 days, 21 hours ago
        mspalding- That has to be right, bah! It matches my other reading. So this revision-

        They changed from natural gas powered compressors, not to wind powered electric, but grid (mix of all) electric. That means the decision was bad rather than suicidal.
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  • Posted by term2 1 week, 1 day ago
    I think that power generation at the lowest possible rates requires careful balancing of generating capacity and user demand. Its no different than selecting a home generator. You buy a unit close to the max generating capacity you anticipate.
    If your needs exceed the capacity of the unit, it shuts down by itself until you can shed some of the load and restart it to produce only up to its max capacity.

    There is some excess capacity built in to one's own generating capacity and the grid generating capacity, but I would guess the excess capability isnt more than 10%. If wind turbines freeze up and snow covers the solar panels, its pretty easy to overtax the generating capacity- meaning that you have to shed some loads NOW, before the system automatically turns off generators to protect them from overloads and then the process cascades until the entire grid fails.
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  • Posted by 25n56il4 1 week, 4 days ago
    I'm no expert but I think this guy is off the mark. Texas's backup for electricity was those damn windmills that froze. We then had no backup for the serious electricity drain. My electricity went Sunday at 2:58 a.m. My gas didn't start to twitter until Wednesday and my Generac started acting up showing 'low speed''.
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    • Posted by $ Temlakos 1 week, 1 day ago
      Generac? That's the company to whom I went for a whole-house gas generator. I didn't need it this last time, but I did rely on it for 63 hr 17 min after Hurricane Michael knocked down trees 150 miles around the Virginia-N.C. border and brought down a good chunk of the grid with those trees.
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  • Posted by $ Temlakos 1 week, 1 day ago
    The then head of ERCOT didn't even live in Texas! Neither did three other ERCOT board members who--along with this "then head"--tendered their resignations two days ago. Just saying.
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    • Posted by term2 1 week, 1 day ago
      They did rolling blackouts which were a great idea to keep people from losing their refrigerated and frozen food and allowed customers to at least partially heat their homes
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      • Posted by $ Temlakos 1 week, 1 day ago
        I know what some people will say about that. "Under the circumstances..." Except for one thing: ERCOT created the circumstances. Not the weather, but utter failure to plan for it.

        I lived in Texas for a total of eight years and three months. In that time I experienced at least two Arctic Flying Wedge events. They might not have been as severe as this one, but they were severe enough.

        If I were the Governor of Texas, I would issue the order to plan for a Minnesota winter. If Texas hopes to regain its independence, that sort of winter is the one for which they must plan.
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        • Posted by term2 1 week, 1 day ago
          The real problem is too much government control over the economy. Leave power production to private businesses that compete with each othr. government is just incompetent to run pretty much any business. Its not to the advantage of any private company to have a situation like that in Texas- its very inefficient and costs money.

          I live in Las Vegas. Hardly ever does a privately owned casinio have a lack of parking. But almost ALL government buildings have terrible parking. Thats because the casinos compete for business, while government is a monopoly. We should take a lesson from that
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          • Posted by $ Temlakos 1 week, 1 day ago
            That's why we need a discussion of alternative models of grid operation. Mulligan's Valley/Galt's Gulch (Atlas Shrugged) had only one grid and one power provider: John Galt, using his electrostatic motor. But how would a grid operate without a central operator? AS didn't discuss how the electrostatic motor ramped up and down with changes in demand. I have an idea that the addition of grid-scale storage operators could provide the missing element that would keep a decentralized grid in balance. But I'm not an electrical engineer. Am I missing something?

            I think I'll start a discussion on this point.
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            • Posted by term2 1 week, 1 day ago
              This is the magic of competition. Maybe a grid configuration isnt the best way to go. I remember when I was in college, the whole east coast went dark because of cascading grid issues. Personally I would rather have my own power generation- maybe solar with Tesla powerwall batteries, and maybe some natural gas or diesel backup system to recharge the batteries like in a VOLT car that GM used to have.
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              • Posted by $ Temlakos 1 week, 1 day ago
                The problem is: does our technology today support totally private and autonomous power generation at all residential, commercial, and industrial levels? Every single-family residence, apartment development, office park, and factory acting as its own electric power generator? That's not what Ayn Rand had in mind, or else she would have promoted the model of every residence or larger development in the Gulch having its own electrostatic motor. Which she did not.
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                • Posted by 1 week, 1 day ago
                  I think of it like the internet. Does it make sense for each individual to host his own website or does such a service require knowledge that is not common to each person? It may be more self reliant to have your own site (or power generator) but is it economic or technically possible (or, in the case of power, is it safe?)
                  imo, Rand thought that a free market would provide varied solutions based on customer demand, and each customer decides what his priority is, weighing the factors as they matter to each customer. (AS was about freedom, not technical details of energy generation so Rand didn't delve into it. It wasn't her area of expertise either. I don't recall any AR articles that went into details.) Some want a cheap power source and only complain when the power company doesn't provide service as expected. Others need more reliable power and are willing to pay to assure that they get it.
                  Today you can have autonomous power (a stand alone generator, acres of solar panels and batteries, etc.) at each residence, but the cost is usually much higher (and pollutants might be greater, too.) Maybe there is a better solution hidden in the "evil oil companies" secret files.
                  We are in a rural area but are on the grid. We also have a generator that is adequate to supply power for short term needs when a storm knocks out supply. But if the truck stop couldn't sell more unleaded to us for the generator we would not have a running generator when the unleaded ran out. Most of us are not prepared for a real disaster that affects power supply for very long.
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                  • Posted by $ Temlakos 1 week, 1 day ago
                    The problem is not electric power generation but distribution and storage. Today, storage is not done except on a limited scale--residential or commercial or maybe industrial. Not grid-scale, although grid-scale storage technologies do exist today.

                    It's more an engineering question. Can a decentralized grid function properly and safely for all concerned? And who would run it?
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                • Posted by term2 1 week, 1 day ago
                  I think that competition would be the best way to find out what sort of system works best over time. Let multiple companies try to solve the problems so they make more money. That way, I dont have to be an electrical power engineer in order to enjoy reliable electrical power. Right now, I would go solar and battery with diesel backup
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                • Posted by term2 1 week, 1 day ago
                  I am sure that when AS was written, the technology wasnt there, although I suspect that there could have been electrostatic generators for each house easily enough. Grid technology, where there is a series of interconnected generators was supposed to offer some advantages over non interconnected generators, but there are distinct problems with the grid topology that we periodically see. Texans were not prepared for a loss of piped in water or electricity and suffered excessively for a week.
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