Wind disappeared in Texas as electricity demand surged

Like California, Texas is straining to keep the lights on as unusually warm temperatures increase the demand for electricity for air conditioning. Unfortunately for Texas, their fleet of wind turbines has performed poorly over the last several days.

On June 15, 2021, ERCOT issued a conservation call from 3 p.m. to 7 p.m., lasting through Friday, June 18, 2021.

Renewable energy advocates have tried to blame outages at natural gas plants for the conservation calls, but data from the Energy Information Administration show that natural gas generation increased substantially from June 10 to June 14 to meet rising demand. Wind generation, on the other hand, fell during this time.

It would be wrong to say that natural gas generators worked perfectly, though. ERCOT issued a statement saying that 11,000 MW of generation was offline because it needed repairs. Of this amount, about 8,000 MW is thermal and the rest is intermittent resources.

Wind and solar special interest groups crowed about this press release, but all this does is highlight the fact that they don’t really understand how the electricity system works. It is true that only 3,000 MW of intermittent wind or solar generators were offline due to repairs, but that doesn’t mean they were producing electricity.

In fact, these energy sources were producing just a small fraction of their potential output, even though they weren’t broken.

The gray bars in the graph below shows the demand for electricity in Texas on June 18. The blue bars show wind generation during this day, and the straight black line running across the graph shows the amount of wind installed in Texas.

In other words, wind could have been producing up to that black line, but if fell humiliatingly short during a period when the power was needed most.

Texas has a lot of problems that need to get fixed to shore up the reliability of its grid. To do this, it will have to change the rules of its energy market that unfairly favor wind and solar generators at the expense of reliable electricity providers.

Minnesota politicians need to understand that by shutting down our reliable coal plants before the end of their useful lifetimes, we are making many of the same dangerous mistakes as Texas.