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.

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