Did #renewableenergy cause #Texas grid failure? Could it happen in #Utah? — The Deseret News

Storm clouds are a metaphor for Republican strategy to politicize renewable energy for the November 2020 election. Photo credit: The Mountain Town News/Allen Best

From The Deseret News (Amy Joi O’Donoghue):

The once-in-a-lifetime winter storm that clobbered the electrical grid in Texas and left at least 10 people dead has sparked a political donnybrook pitting clean energy advocates against conservative supporters of the oil and gas industry.

The controversy erupted after Texas Gov. Greg Abbott said the rolling power outages that affected millions of residents enduring bitter cold underscores the continued need for fossil fuels…

Wind turbines did freeze in Texas, but the unprecedented deep freeze also led to the failure of natural gas plants, associated infrastructure such as pipelines, as well as nuclear power units.

Abbott’s criticism of clean energy comes even as the workhorse for the energy grid in Texas remains fossil fuels.

His statement led to a scathing rebuke from the American Clean Power Association.

“It is disgraceful to see the longtime antagonists of clean power — who attack it whether it is raining, snowing or the sun is shining — engaging in a politically opportunistic charade misleading Americans to promote an agenda that has nothing to do with restoring power to Texas communities,” said Heather Zichal, the association’s chief executive officer.

“Texas is a warm weather state experiencing once-in-a-generation cold weather. Most of the power that went offline was gas, coal or oil. It is an extreme weather problem, not a clean power problem.”

[…]

Could widespread grid failure happen in Utah?

It’s much more unlikely that a widespread grid failure could happen in Utah, according to Rocky Mountain Power’s Dave Eskelsen, because Utah’s grid structure is so different than that of Texas.

Rocky Mountain Power’s parent company is PacifiCorp, which is the largest grid owner and operator in the West, serving six states, including Utah.

Because of that, Utah enjoys the benefit of being part of a large, diverse grid in which there are multiple power purchase contracts in place should generation in one state fail.

In addition, PacifiCorp is a member of the Western Electricity Coordinating Council, which exists to ensure a reliable grid for 14 Western states, two Canadian provinces and a portion of northern Mexico…

While those interconnection relationships were initially forged to provide grid reliability, Eskelsen said the relationship among the various states emerged into one of a wholesale energy market in which long-term and short-term contracts provide electricity needs among the players.

Eskelsen said there are also plenty of “day ahead” contracts that exist to counter an unforeseen weather event that could affect individual generation…

Another contingency in the utility’s energy portfolio is that any of the wind turbines, say those in Wyoming, come with a cold weather package.

“Because a lot of those turbines in Wyoming are at a higher elevation where cold weather is common, they come with a cold weather package that offers heating capabilities to keep the machinery turning the turbines such as lubricating oil that is heated,” he said.

Should another electricity provider become compromised such as a natural gas plant or coal-fired power plant — Utah’s dominant conveyer of electricity — the state would generally have 800 megawatts of wind power available and Rocky Mountain Power is also a common recipient of excess solar power generated in California.

Another difference between Utah and Texas is that Rocky Mountain Power is part of a vertically integrated system in which the generation, the transmission and the distribution of electricity is all under one operating umbrella. In Texas, the Electric Reliability Council of Texas controls the flow of power, while there are independent power providers.

With less moisture, experts worried the 2021 #wildfire season could be as bad as 2020 — CBS #Denver

Westwide SNOTEL February 19, 2021 via the NRCS.

From TheDenverChannel.com (Dan Grossman):

Much of the western United States has seen less than 85% of the snow it is used to getting and it is worrying some about the fire season ahead.

“There absolutely is a lot of concern that we could see another record fire season,” said Ben Livneh, a hydrologist and assistant professor of civil and environmental engineering at the University of Colorado Boulder. “I think people are still getting their bearings on how exactly we got into this situation and what it means.”

2020 saw one of the worst fire seasons in U.S. history. More than 10.27 million acres burned across the country, the most since accurate records began in 1983, and it happened on the heels of a year that brought good moisture.

This year, that moisture is less. According to data from state agencies that track snowpack, the Sierra Nevada Mountains in California have seen 77% of its normal snowfall, Colorado basins are at 93%, and Utah basins are at 82%.

It means it could be another active year for crews meant to protect all of us…

February, March, and April are the snowiest months for the western U.S. so there is time to catch up, but Livneh says it might take an abnormally large amount of snow to get snowpack levels back to normal.

#NewMexico Interstate Stream Commission discusses next 50 years of water management — The #Farmington Daily Times

San Juan River Basin. Graphic credit Wikipedia.

From The Farmington Daily Times (Hannah Grover):

Climate change will both decrease water supplies and increase demand, and the New Mexico Interstate Stream Commission hopes a 50-year water plan will provide the tools and resources needed to navigate the future.

This water plan, which is currently in the first phase of work, is among the Gov. Michelle Lujan Grisham’s priorities.

A study session on Feb. 18 provided the ISC commissioners with background on water planning in New Mexico, from the 19th century belief that rain would come if the land was farmed to the 2018 water plan that highlighted work needed in New Mexico’s 16 water planning regions.

The 50-year water plan will likely be completed in 2022. The ISC is supposed to learn more about it during the March study session.

Regions with limited aquifers rely almost entirely on surface water. Lucia Sanchez, the ISC’s water planning program manager, gave the San Juan River basin as an example of one of those areas. Meanwhile, there are other regions of the state with no surface water. In those regions, they rely almost entirely on groundwater. Sanchez highlighted Lea County as an example of an area that relies on groundwater.

Looking to the future, Sanchez said there is a projected gap in supplies even without accounting for climate change in regions that rely heavily on groundwater. Under a drought scenario, she said all regions of the state will be impacted.

“I almost feel like a state water plan is like somebody asking for directions and that’s easy enough to come up with if you know where the destination is,” said Commissioner Aron Balok. “And I feel like we’ve been asked to come up with directions but haven’t been given the destination, where we want to arrive.”

He explained that New Mexico uses prior appropriation doctrine to react to scarcity. That means the oldest water rights have priority if there is a shortage. Balok said a state water plan should look at alternatives to prior appropriation…

Commissioner Greg Carrasco said it is easier to project future water supplies than to predict what the demand will be for water in 50 years.

The San Juan Water Conservancy District and a current board consultant extend agreement for one month, new contract won’t be pursued — The #PagosaSprings Sun

View to the south into the snaking West Fork of the San Juan River as seen from US 160, halfway up to the summit of Wolf Creek Pass. By User:Erikvoss, CC BY-SA 3.0, https://commons.wikimedia.org/w/index.php?curid=61976794

From The Pagosa Springs Sun (Chris Mannara):

The contract between the San Juan Water Conservancy District (SJWCD) and its current board consultant, Renee Lewis, will not be renewed, and the existing contract between the two parties will continue for an additional month.

During the Feb. 15 meeting of the SJWCD board, SJWCD Chair Al Pfister explained that Lewis had sent an email to himself, SJWCD board member John Porco and SJWCD’s legal counsel, Jeff Kane, informing them that she did not want to take on a new agreement with a continuation of services.

Aspinall Unit Forecast for Operations, February 19, 2021 #GunnisonRiver #ColoradoRiver #COriver