An independent market monitor says ERCOT, the Texas grid operator, left wholesale electricity prices at the legal maximum for two days longer than necessary, and overcharged power companies $16 billion in the process during the winter storm that caused massive grid and gas system failures and left more than 4 million Texans without electricity.
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EcoWatch Daily Newsletter
By Matt Casale
There were many lessons to be learned from Texas' prolonged periods of lost power during its cold snap, which saw temperatures drop into the single digits. But one many people may not recognize is that electric vehicles, or EVs, can be part of a smart resiliency plan — not only in the case of outages triggered by the cold but in other scenarios caused by extreme weather events, from fire-related blackouts in California to hurricane-hit power losses in Puerto Rico.
A car driving in the snow in Dallas, Feb. 2021. Matthew Rader / CC BY-SA 4.0<p>Experts recognize that electric vehicles are a central climate solution for their role in reducing greenhouse gas emissions. But EVs are also essentially batteries on wheels. You can store energy in those batteries, and if EVs are equipped with something called <a href="https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Vehicle-to-grid" target="_blank">vehicle-to-grid</a> or vehicle-to-building technology, they can also be used to keep the lights on in emergencies. The technology allows the energy being stored in an EV battery to be pushed back into the grid or into buildings to provide power.</p><p>There are hurdles: The technology is still <a href="https://www.greenbiz.com/article/vehicle-grid-technology-revving" target="_blank">developing</a>, the vast majority of EVs currently on the road do not have this capability, and utilities would need regulatory approval before bringing it to scale. But done right it could be a great opportunity.</p><p>Electric car batteries can hold approximately <a href="https://www.wri.org/blog/2019/11/how-california-can-use-electric-vehicles-keep-lights" target="_blank" rel="noopener noreferrer">60 kilowatt hours (kWh)</a> of energy, enough to provide back-up power to an average U.S. household for two days. Larger electric vehicles like buses and trucks have even bigger batteries and can provide more power. The American company Proterra produces electric buses that can store <a href="https://www.proterra.com/press-release/proterra-launches-zx5-electric-bus/" target="_blank" rel="noopener noreferrer">up to 660 kWh of energy</a>. Electric <a href="https://www.wsj.com/articles/electric-trash-trucks-are-coming-quietly-to-your-town-11602098620#:~:text=Electric%20trash%20truck%20love%20is%20in%20the%20air.&text=A's%20program%20to%20reduce%20carbon,being%20primarily%20electric%20by%202023." target="_blank" rel="noopener noreferrer">garbage trucks</a> and even <a href="https://www.nytimes.com/2020/03/19/business/electric-semi-trucks-big-rigs.html" target="_blank" rel="noopener noreferrer">big-rigs</a>, with bigger batteries, are becoming a reality too.</p>
MTA New York City Transit / Marc A. Hermann / CC BY 2.0<p>If equipped with vehicle-to-grid or vehicle-to-building technology, those cars, buses and trucks could prove invaluable during future blackouts. People could rely on their cars to power their houses. Municipalities, transit agencies and school districts could send out their fleets to the areas most in need. We could power homes, shelters and emergency response centers — and could keep people warm, healthy and comfortable until power could be restored.</p><p>But to add this great resiliency tool to our arsenal in times of extreme weather, we must significantly increase the number of EVs on the road. In 2019 electric cars accounted for only about <a href="https://www.energy.gov/eere/vehicles/articles/fotw-1136-june-1-2020-plug-vehicle-sales-accounted-about-2-all-light-duty" target="_blank">2%</a> of all light-duty vehicle sales in the country. Electric buses and trucks are becoming more common in the United States, but still only represent a tiny fraction of the fleet. As it stands now, the EVs currently on the road, even if equipped with vehicle-to-grid technology, would do little to help a broad swath of the population in need of power.</p>
A line of electric cars at charging stations. Andrew Bone / CC BY 2.0
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A good backup generator can help you keep your home running smoothly, even in the event of a major power outage. And, when you choose a solar generator, you can power your home using clean, renewable energy from the sun. By contrast, gas and diesel generators burn fossil fuels, and are extremely loud and spew harmful emissions into the atmosphere. Here are the best solar power generators available today that can provide a cleaner alternative for home generators.
Goal Zero<p>The <a href="https://www.amazon.com/Portable-Inverter-Generator-Generators-Emergency/dp/B08MBDN4VK" target="_blank">Yeti 6000X</a> is actually a portable power station that can be used for off-grid camping or powering an RV. With 6,000 watt-hours and two 2000W AC charger ports, it will give you plenty of power for your home. With a home integration kit, it's easy to use the Goal Zero Yeti 6000X to power essential circuits.</p><p><strong>Why buy: </strong>Though it isn't exactly cheap, the Yeti 6000X power station is a great all-purpose backup generator, including a top-of-the-line charge controller and two robust AC outlets that make it easy for you to keep your household essentials up and running. It can even power a full-size refrigerator or microwave.</p>
Renogy<p>Renogy produces several different power stations and chargers, but we especially like the <a href="https://www.amazon.com/Renogy-Powerbox-Portable-Outdoor-1075WH-Generator/dp/B01N6BCDZD" target="_blank">Lycan Powerbox</a>, a solar power solution that's only a little bit bigger than a suitcase. It comes with an easy-grip handle and heavy-duty wheels, making it one of the most portable solar generators around while still offering 1200W of output, which is enough power for most electronic devices and some appliances.</p><p><strong>Why buy:</strong> The Lycan Powerbox can provide 1075 watt-hours of continuous power without the noise or fumes associated with gas generators. It offers great portability and includes an LCD display and easy, intuitive controls that allow you to switch between DC power and AC power as needed, as well USB ports and 12 volt car charger ports.</p>
Jackery<p>The <a href="https://www.amazon.com/dp/B083KBKJ8Q/?tag=best-solar-generator-20" target="_blank">Jackery Explorer 1000 portable power station</a> is one of the best all-around options, equally suited for outdoor activities and for emergency power readiness. Though it's rated for 1,000 watts, it can actually get closer to 2,000. The lithium battery pack offers a capacity of 1,200 watt-hours, and Jackery's professional MPPT technology makes it easy to get your unit fully charged in a relatively short span of time (usually just eight hours if you have two panels going).</p><p><strong>Why buy: </strong>Jackery is one of the leading names in outdoor equipment and in clean energy products. This portable power station is a great pick for campers and can also be a very effective home backup power solution for small appliances and electronics thanks to its pure sine wave inverter AC outlets.</p>
Westinghouse Outdoor Power<p>Westinghouse is another company that specializes in solar powered generators, most of which are more ideally suited for camping trips. Their <a href="https://www.amazon.com/Westinghouse-iGen600s-Portable-Generator-Lithium-ion/dp/B08SJ8JBBC/ref=sr_1_2?dchild=1&m=A2MDFVW08TGIW8&marketplaceID=ATVPDKIKX0DER&qid=1614289724&s=merchant-items&sr=1-2" target="_blank">iGen600s</a> portable generator, however, offers a wattage of up to 1,200 peak watts, which can certainly function as a decent emergency backup for certain household appliances and small devices.</p><p><strong>Why buy: </strong>For a portable yet still very versatile solar generator, Westinghouse is a company to keep on your list. The iGen600 power system can run a mini fridge for up to 42 hours or a CPAP machine for up to 46 hours thanks to its lithium-ion battery that offers 592 Watt-hours of energy and a long battery life.</p>
EcoFlow<p>The <a href="https://www.amazon.com/EF-ECOFLOW-Portable-Station-Generator/dp/B083FR3762" target="_blank" rel="noopener noreferrer">EcoFlow DELTA power station</a> is a wonderfully rugged, dependable backup generator that can help meet your power needs during a blackout. For one thing, the charging time is incredible; you can potentially go from zero to 80 percent in under an hour with a wall outlet. Should you ever find yourself facing a power outage, this is an emergency energy solution you'll be really thankful for.</p><p><strong>Why buy:</strong> The DELTA station from EcoFlow offers a lot of value and usability; in particular, it has one of the fastest recharging times of any solar generator, which may be reason enough for you to choose it over the competitors. The DELTA unit offers 13 ports, meaning it's compatible with pretty much any device or appliance you could ever need to charge.</p>
Bluetti<p>For a heavy-duty emergency power solution, look no further than to MAXOAK, and particularly to a product called the <a href="https://www.amazon.com/BLUETTI-Portable-Station-Generator-Emergency/dp/B08MZJW9Y5" target="_blank">Bluetti AC200P</a>. With a 2000 Watt-hour capacity, this is one of the most robust solar generators you'll find anywhere.</p><p><strong>Why buy:</strong> MAXOAK's Bluetti AC200P is the one you're going to want for really heavy-duty home energy backup. With massive AC inverters that offer up to 4800W surge capacity, it can provide more than enough power to fuel all your most critical home appliances, even some HVAC units. Also note the two-year warranty, a generous consumer protection.</p>
Point Zero Energy<p><a href="https://www.pointzeroenergy.com/product/titan-solar-generator/" target="_blank">Point Zero Energy</a> is one of the foremost names in disaster preparedness, and when you take a look at their product specs, you'll see why. Their Titan model solar generator offers almost twice the storage of similarly priced units with a high-capacity 2,000-watt-hour battery capacity and 3,000 watt high-efficiency inverter.</p><p><strong>Why buy: </strong>On a purely technical level, this is the beefiest generator on our list, though of course, it's also one of the priciest. The unit is made with high-efficiency components, meaning it doesn't waste a lot of energy running the system; instead, it just supplies you with plenty of functional electricity when you need it the most.</p>
Low-income Texans, especially those of color, disproportionately bore the burdens of the state's power grid failure that left them huddling for warmth, and dying, without heat in poorly insulated homes.
By Jessica Corbett
While millions of Texans on Monday continued living without safe drinking water and many faced storm damage and massive electricity bills, youth leaders with the Sunrise Movement rallied at the state capitol in Austin, using the current conditions across the Lone Star State to bolster their demand for a Green New Deal.
<div id="33fe2" class="rm-shortcode" data-rm-shortcode-id="20d635a68d8c6c0e2ee0e9ba14e3bf69"><blockquote class="twitter-tweet twitter-custom-tweet" data-twitter-tweet-id="1363901146478219266" data-partner="rebelmouse"><div style="margin:1em 0">[email protected] at the Texas Capitol this morning to confront state and country leaders about last week’s snow storm… https://t.co/kokBBRZoNA</div> — Hannah Falcon (@Hannah Falcon)<a href="https://twitter.com/hannahfalcon_/statuses/1363901146478219266">1614014348.0</a></blockquote></div>
<div id="5f790" class="rm-shortcode" data-rm-shortcode-id="94bf16b155a9b5ee079ce2b230981e54"><blockquote class="twitter-tweet twitter-custom-tweet" data-twitter-tweet-id="1363909975597285382" data-partner="rebelmouse"><div style="margin:1em 0">And the state has the fucking gall right now to put troopers with ARs out on the capitol grounds to intimidate us.… https://t.co/WFUZcKDcKl</div> — EmGe (@EmGe)<a href="https://twitter.com/em_magining/statuses/1363909975597285382">1614016453.0</a></blockquote></div>
<div id="580d0" class="rm-shortcode" data-rm-shortcode-id="87ca15ef9a8a31b909d0919db56fa761"><blockquote class="twitter-tweet twitter-custom-tweet" data-twitter-tweet-id="1362528807073234948" data-partner="rebelmouse"><div style="margin:1em 0">We know that when our lights go out, there are neighborhoods like @GovAbbott’s whose don’t. The rest of us? We com… https://t.co/EwTZ4kA2Zh</div> — Sunrise Movement 🌅 (@Sunrise Movement 🌅)<a href="https://twitter.com/sunrisemvmt/statuses/1362528807073234948">1613687156.0</a></blockquote></div>
<div id="8bcef" class="rm-shortcode" data-rm-shortcode-id="c7186a458462e9d1332cd150cf23d73e"><blockquote class="twitter-tweet twitter-custom-tweet" data-twitter-tweet-id="1363902295344226304" data-partner="rebelmouse"><div style="margin:1em 0">Ted Cruz says he went to Mexico to be a "good parent." That was BS, as we all know. The way to be a good parent (or… https://t.co/uWZWdCgsbe</div> — Naomi Klein (@Naomi Klein)<a href="https://twitter.com/NaomiAKlein/statuses/1363902295344226304">1614014621.0</a></blockquote></div><p>Klein—author of <a href="https://inthesetimes.com/article/this-changes-everything-naomi-klein-lessons" target="_blank"><em>This Changes Everything: Capitalism vs the Climate</em></a> and other books—<a href="https://www.commondreams.org/news/2021/02/22/republicans-fear-green-new-deal-argues-naomi-klein-because-its-viable-alternative" target="_blank">argued</a> in a Sunday column for the <em>New York Times</em> that Republicans "fear" the Green New Deal because it offers a viable alternative to "the collapse of a 40-year experiment in free-market fundamentalism" that Texans are now enduring.</p><p>"The horrors currently unfolding in Texas expose both the reality of the climate crisis and the extreme vulnerability of fossil fuel infrastructure in the face of that crisis," Klein wrote. "So of course the Green New Deal finds itself under fierce attack. Because for the first time in a long time, Republicans face the very thing that they claim to revere but never actually wanted: competition—in the battle of ideas."</p>
<div id="d2af4" class="rm-shortcode" data-rm-shortcode-id="07057c3270fc8f809f160c8a4aeff329"><blockquote class="twitter-tweet twitter-custom-tweet" data-twitter-tweet-id="1363531126426398721" data-partner="rebelmouse"><div style="margin:1em 0">I wrote about why Texas Republicans are terrified of the #GreenNewDeal for @nytimes. Their ideas are no longer "l… https://t.co/RWDDJhCeua</div> — Naomi Klein (@Naomi Klein)<a href="https://twitter.com/NaomiAKlein/statuses/1363531126426398721">1613926128.0</a></blockquote></div><p> In a statement last week <a href="https://www.commondreams.org/news/2021/02/17/demanding-gov-abbotts-resignation-sunrise-movement-says-texas-crisis-shows-urgent" target="_blank">calling on</a> Abbott to resign over his handling of the storm and his lies about the power outages on <em>Fox News</em>, Sunrise digital director Paris Moran declared that "we deserve a government that addresses our basic needs and protects all of us in moments of crisis."</p><p>"Despite the lies you'll hear from Gov. Abbott on <em>Fox News</em>, that's truly what the Green New Deal is all about," said Moran, whose family in Texas lost electricity, had food go bad, and lacked consistent running water. "We must come together and rebuild an era of prosperity through the Decade of the Green New Deal."</p>
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By Theodore J. Kury
Americans often take electricity for granted – until the lights go out. The recent cold wave and storm in Texas have placed considerable focus on the Electric Reliability Council of Texas, or ERCOT, the nonprofit corporation that manages the flow of electricity to more than 26 million Texans. Together, ERCOT and similar organizations manage about 60% of the U.S. power supply.
In the Southeast, Southwest and Northwest U.S., traditional utilities generate electricity and deliver it to customers. Other regions, including Texas, have moved to competitive power markets run by Independent System Operators, or ISOs. FERC
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As the death toll mounts, secondary effects of the Texas grid failure, driven primarily by the failure of gas, coal, and nuclear plants to handle the cold, are becoming apparent.
The dramatic cold snap that devastated Texas's power grid also had a major impact on the state's nonhuman inhabitants.
<div class="rm-shortcode" data-rm-shortcode-id="c87ecbcf4da4d0862b45da74bd59aea0"><div class="fb-post" data-href="https://www.facebook.com/SeaTurtleConservation/posts/5368924459814606"></div></div><p>The rescue involved a collective effort. Social media posts showed a retiree hauling turtles in the back of her car and Texas Game Wardens lining the deck of their ship with turtles.</p>
<div id="3d490" class="rm-shortcode" data-rm-shortcode-id="8f68413eccafac89ed421ca127f450ca"><blockquote class="twitter-tweet twitter-custom-tweet" data-twitter-tweet-id="1361460058530308096" data-partner="rebelmouse"><div style="margin:1em 0">My mom is retired, & she spends her winters volunteering at a sea turtle rescue center in south Texas. The cold sna… https://t.co/91yz3BNAY6</div> — Lara (@Lara)<a href="https://twitter.com/lara_hand/statuses/1361460058530308096">1613432347.0</a></blockquote></div>
<div id="73055" class="rm-shortcode" data-rm-shortcode-id="1f26ef4bafb29456ed9d70ec5f4edafe"><blockquote class="twitter-tweet twitter-custom-tweet" data-twitter-tweet-id="1361843910453063682" data-partner="rebelmouse"><div style="margin:1em 0">Texas Game Wardens assigned to Cameron county rescued 141 sea turtles from the frigid waters of the Brownsville Shi… https://t.co/I9IFZwTqnl</div> — Texas Game Warden (@Texas Game Warden)<a href="https://twitter.com/TexasGameWarden/statuses/1361843910453063682">1613523864.0</a></blockquote></div>
<div id="9b820" class="rm-shortcode" data-rm-shortcode-id="cdbcb237d30bb9f384ddd01ee0f0c9e0"><blockquote class="twitter-tweet twitter-custom-tweet" data-twitter-tweet-id="1361711788493074432" data-partner="rebelmouse"><div style="margin:1em 0">Texas is frozen solid as folks are left w/ no power to stay safe & warm. This is a perfect example of the need fo… https://t.co/Tktn0F89t4</div> — Steve Daines (@Steve Daines)<a href="https://twitter.com/SteveDaines/statuses/1361711788493074432">1613492364.0</a></blockquote></div><p>According to The Electric Reliability Council of Texas (ERCOT), which represents 90 percent of the state's electric load, wind turbine outages were responsible for less than 13 percent of Texas' lost generation. The majority of the power outages can instead be attributed to <a href="https://www.ecowatch.com/tag/coal" target="_blank">coal</a> and gas, a local news outlet <a href="https://www.kxan.com/news/texas/are-frozen-wind-turbines-to-blame-for-texas-power-outages/" target="_blank">reported</a>.</p><p>The Montana senator's tweet included a viral image of a helicopter spraying liquid to defrost a frozen wind turbine. According to the image's caption, fossil fuels powered the helicopter while the liquid it sprayed contained them. "Keep that in mind when thinking how 'green' windmills are," <a href="https://twitter.com/laurenboebert/status/1361664647661780992" target="_blank" rel="noopener noreferrer">Rep. Lauren Boebert</a> from Colorado tweeted, gaining thousands of retweets, <a href="https://earther.gizmodo.com/viral-image-claiming-to-show-a-helicopter-de-icing-texa-1846279287" target="_blank" rel="noopener noreferrer">Earther reported</a>. This same image has been <a href="https://twitter.com/lukelegate/status/1361149723072208896" target="_blank" rel="noopener noreferrer">shared</a> by Luke Legate, a prominent oil and gas consultant, Earther added, although it is misleading. </p><p>While helicopters are used to defrost wind turbines, the image is from Sweden in 2014, not present-day Texas, said Brian Kahn, managing editor of Earther. The photo is originally from a Swedish study on de-icing wind turbines using hot water. Now the image is being used "to argue against clean energy in the U.S," Kahn wrote. "It's a rather silly claim."</p><p>Wind turbines in Texas did indeed fail during the frigid winter temperatures, losing about 4.5 gigawatts of capacity according to The New York Times. But as of Monday afternoon, 26 of the 34 gigawatts of ERCOT's grid that went offline were from thermal sources such as gas and coal, <a href="https://newrepublic.com/article/161386/conservatives-wind-turbines-killing-people-texas-blackouts" target="_blank" rel="noopener noreferrer">The New Republic reported</a>. </p>
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By John Rogers
The Polar Vortex hitting much of the US has wreaked havoc not just on roadways and airports, but also on our electricity systems, as plenty are experiencing first-hand right now. Households, institutions, and communities across the region — and friends and family members — have been hit by power outages, and all that comes with them.
1. Restoring power (safely) is Job 1.<p>First: Some things about all this we won't know until we have the benefit of a few days — or months — of hindsight, and data. But one thing we do know right now is that electricity, which we so often take for granted, is crucial to so many aspects of our lives.</p><p>For some, power outages are an inconvenience. For others, they're <a href="https://blog.ucsusa.org/julie-mcnamara/hurricane-irma-power-outage" target="_blank" rel="noopener noreferrer">life-threatening</a>. So keeping the power flowing, or getting it back up as quickly as possible, is key. Grid operators need to avoid affecting vulnerable populations and critical infrastructure as much as possible when they're implementing rolling blackouts, and need to prioritize them when they're restoring service.</p><p>While all confronting power outages or near misses are indebted to those working around the clock to keep things from getting worse, keeping crews safe is also key. Weather like this, combined with the ongoing pandemic, sure doesn't make for the easiest working conditions, so utilities and grid operators will need to use really solid judgement about where they can safely focus people, and when, for any needed repairs.</p>
2. The power outages are about both supply and demand.<p>Utilities and grid operators have been hit by the double whammies of unprecedented demand and big challenges on the supply side. On the demand side, for example, Texas on Valentine's Day <a href="https://twitter.com/ERCOT_ISO/status/1361142665140711427" target="_blank">shattered</a> its previous winter peak record by almost 5%. The peak was 11,000 MW above what ERCOT, Texas's electric grid operator, was projecting and planning for as of November — some 15-20 good-sized power plants' worth.</p><p>And on the supply side, power lines taken out by the weather are a piece of it, as you'd expect. But it also turns out that all kinds of power plants have gone offline, for a range of reasons. Take natural gas, for example:</p>
3. Natural gas plants have been hit hard.<p>Gas plants suffer from their own supply-and-demand issues. One piece of it is the fact that the same gas that supplies them is also needed for heating homes and businesses. And if a power plant doesn't have firm contracts to get gas when it needs it, the way gas utilities would, the power plant loses out. The laws of physics may also be coming into play, as any moisture in the gas lines succumbs to the extreme cold and gums up the works—valves, for instance.</p><p>And indeed, initial indications are that a lot of the lost capacity is natural gas-fired. Data from Southwest Power Pool (SPP), the grid operator for much of the Great Plains, <a href="https://marketplace.spp.org/pages/capacity-of-generation-on-outage#%2F2021%2F02" target="_blank">show</a> that 70% of its "outaged" megawatts (MW) were natural gas plants.</p><p>ERCOT, which is powered primarily by natural gas and wind, was <a href="http://www.ercot.com/news/releases/show/225210" target="_blank" rel="noopener noreferrer">warning</a> yesterday that "Extreme weather conditions caused many generating units — across fuel types — to trip offline and become unavailable." It <a href="https://twitter.com/Sonalcpatel/status/1361365934204674053" target="_blank" rel="noopener noreferrer">clarified</a> elsewhere, though, that the majority of the capacity it had lost overnight was "thermal generators, like generation fueled by gas, coal, or nuclear". In all, Texas was out <a href="https://www.houstonchronicle.com/business/energy/article/Wholesale-power-prices-spiking-across-Texas-15951684.php" target="_blank" rel="noopener noreferrer">more than a third</a> of its total capacity.</p>
4. Don’t think an “all of the above” strategy would have saved the day.<p>As ERCOT's messages suggests, this isn't just a gas issue, and these last few days should in no way be fodder for the type of fact-free "all of the above" pushes <a href="https://blog.ucsusa.org/jeremy-richardson/rick-perry-rejects-facts-in-favor-of-coal-and-nuclear-bailouts" target="_blank" rel="noopener noreferrer">favored</a> by the prior administration.</p><p>For example, many power plants, including all nuclear plants, virtually all coal plants, and a lot of natural gas plants, depend on <a href="https://www.ucsusa.org/resources/water-power-plant-cooling" target="_blank" rel="noopener noreferrer">water to cool the steam</a> that drives the electricity-producing turbines. Any power plant dependent on cooling water will run into trouble if that cooling water is actually frozen solid. And they can have their own troubles with fuel availability during extreme cold.</p><p>(While we're on the subject of fossil fuels: Note that the extreme weather has also <a href="https://www.eenews.net/energywire/2021/02/16/stories/1063725119" target="_blank" rel="noopener noreferrer">hit oil production</a>, with the Permian basin, for example, down an estimated 1 million barrels a day.)</p>
5. Wind turbines can be winterized (but Texas…?).<p>Wind turbines aren't immune to extreme cold, and initial reports show that they, too, have been hit by this wave. In SPP, wind was the <a href="https://spp.org/newsroom/press-releases/spp-becomes-first-regional-grid-operator-with-wind-as-no-1-annual-fuel-source-considers-electric-storage-participation-in-markets-approves-2021-transmission-plan/" target="_blank">#1 source</a> of electricity last year, and initial data from yesterday suggested it accounted for almost a fifth of the capacity taken offline.</p><p>ERCOT also mentions wind turbines going offline; one source <a href="https://twitter.com/Sonalcpatel/status/1361357248988143620" target="_blank">suggests</a> 4,000 MW of wind was offline yesterday morning, compared with 26,000 MW of downed thermal capacity (mostly gas). Wind is ERCOT's second-largest supplier of power, accounting for 23% of its electricity last year (from a nation-leading <a href="https://cleanpower.org/resources/american-clean-power-market-report-q4-2020/" target="_blank" rel="noopener noreferrer">33,000 MW</a>).</p><p>But wind farms going offline appears to be a <a href="https://finance.yahoo.com/news/frozen-wind-farms-just-small-002954294.html" target="_blank" rel="noopener noreferrer">much smaller piece</a> of the picture than detractors will suggest. And wind power has played an important role in keeping the lights on in past extreme cold events (remember the <a href="https://www.ecowatch.com/wind-power-bomb-cyclone-2554824592.html" target="_self">Bomb Cyclone</a>?). They can also be at least partially winter-proofed — by hardening the control systems, using the right fluids, and de-icing the blades. But if you don't see weather like this coming…</p>
6. We need to be ready for more extreme weather.<p>And that's one of the lessons to learn from this episode, once we get beyond the immediacy of it all: Past performance is no indication of what's going to be coming at us. We know that climate change is bringing not just overall warming, but also <a href="https://ucsusa.org/resources/does-cold-weather-disprove-climate-change" target="_blank" rel="noopener noreferrer">more extremes at <em>both</em> ends</a>. We also know that there are all kinds of ways that <a href="https://www.ucsusa.org/resources/power-failure" target="_blank" rel="noopener noreferrer">climate change affects our ability to keep the lights on</a>.</p><p>So we need to be ready, or readier, for situations like this. And it turns out that there are <a href="https://blog.ucsusa.org/julie-mcnamara/noreaster-power-grid" target="_blank" rel="noopener noreferrer">a lot of ways</a> we can be. Stronger transmission links can <a href="https://mailchi.mp/acore/acore-statement-on-heartland-power-outages?e=a4ae549508" target="_blank" rel="noopener noreferrer">allow regions to back each other up</a> when they aren't all facing the same challenges at the same time. A diversity of (clean) power options can mean some might be available even when others aren't. (ERCOT anticipated yesterday morning being able to reconnect customers later that day in part because of "additional wind & solar output".)</p><p>We also <a href="https://blog.ucsusa.org/julie-mcnamara/one-way-to-boost-renewables-let-flexible-demand-lend-a-helping-hand" target="_blank" rel="noopener noreferrer">don't have to take electricity demand</a> as a fixed, can't-do-anything-about-it quantity. Utilities (including mine, a few days ago) called on customers to <a href="http://www.ercot.com/news/releases/show/225151" target="_blank" rel="noopener noreferrer">be as efficient as possible</a> to get us past the latest crunches. Programs put in place ahead of time can reward customers for delaying or shifting their electricity use.</p><p>And energy storage can be an important middleperson between supply and demand, from the large scale all the way down to battery packs in our garages and basements.</p>
Getting through this, and beyond<p>Right now, the task is getting the power back on. Longer term, the goal shouldn't be about ensuring 100% reliability (because of the prohibitive cost of removing that last fraction of a fraction of a possibility of a blackout), but to make them as infrequent and as limited in duration as possible. It should, though, be about making sure we make <a href="https://www.ucsusa.org/resources/lights-out" target="_blank">decisions</a> that serve us well in the short term and, in the face of climate change, in the long term.</p><p>Blackouts will happen; that doesn't mean we're powerless against them. The need is there, but so are the tools.</p><p><em><a href="https://blog.ucsusa.org/author/john-rogers" target="_blank">John Rogers</a> is a senior energy analyst with expertise in renewable energy and energy efficiency technologies and policies.</em></p><p><em>Reposted with permission from the <a href="https://blog.ucsusa.org/john-rogers/polar-vortex-power-outages-6-things-to-know-about-supply-demand-and-our-electricity-future" target="_blank">Union of Concerned Scientists</a>. </em></p>
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The growing Texas solar industry is offering a safe harbor to unemployed oil and gas professionals amidst the latest oil and gas industry bust, this one brought on by the novel coronavirus pandemic, the Houston Chronicle reports.
As the coronavirus pandemic has kept many people apart, two sides of a Texas park have finally come together.
<div id="b951c" class="rm-shortcode" data-rm-shortcode-id="088c766b0e0286453ac231f3637b314e"><blockquote class="twitter-tweet twitter-custom-tweet" data-twitter-tweet-id="1337473525737787394" data-partner="rebelmouse"><div style="margin:1em 0">The Robert L.B. Tobin Land Bridge is united! The trail over the Land Bridge is now open! You are invited to come e… https://t.co/Stl7q6zgF0</div> — Phil Hardberger Park Conservancy (@Phil Hardberger Park Conservancy)<a href="https://twitter.com/hardbergerpark/statuses/1337473525737787394">1607713512.0</a></blockquote></div>
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By Keith Schneider
In many ways, the story of Texas over the last century is the state's devout allegiance to the principle that mankind has dominion over nature.
Rising Demand Confronts Lower Supplies<p>There are a couple of ways to examine the coming hardship. The first is in numbers. The <a href="https://www.twdb.texas.gov/waterplanning/data/projections/index.asp" target="_blank">Texas Water Development Board found</a> that by 2070 the state's population will grow to 51 million people, 22 million more than today. The state's annual demand for water, the State Water Board projects, will climb to 21.6 million acre-feet (27 trillion liters), up from 18.4 million.</p><p>At the same time, a severe drought will bring increasing constraint. <a href="https://texasstatewaterplan.org/statewide" target="_blank">State authorities project</a> that in a drought comparable to the most severe on record, water supplies will fall over the next 50 years from 15.2 million acre-feet to 13.6 million acre-feet (17 trillion liters). During the driest periods, more people will have considerably less water.</p><p>Here's how that confrontation is playing out in the Hill Country, a region of rapid population growth and uncertain water supply west of Austin, Texas' capital city.</p><p>Two generations ago, about 40,000 people made their homes in Hays County, an epic, rural, rolling masterpiece of space and sky close to Austin and San Antonio. Authorities in Hays counted 14,000 homes that were supplied with water from the Trinity Aquifer, a giant freshwater reserve that lay below. <a href="https://www.circleofblue.org/2020/world/when-it-rains-texas-forgets-drought-and-worsening-water-scarcity/" target="_blank">In both wet years and dry, water was readily available</a>.</p>
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