With millions of Texans left without electricity for a third day, the wind industry and its proponents spin a fable that gas, coal, and nuclear power plants – not their frozen turbines – are to blame. PolitiFact proclaims, “Natural gas, not wind turbines, is the main driver of Texas power shortages.” Climate change compliance is hard for the media to resist, but we don’t mind. So here are the facts to break the spin.
Texas energy regulators warned of rolling power outages late last week as temperatures in west Texas plunged into the 1920s and wind turbines freeze up. Natural gas and coal-fired power plants were ramped up to meet the wind power shortage as demand for electricity increased as temperatures fell.
Some readers questioned our reporting on Wednesday (“The Political Origin of a Power Outage in Texas”) that the share of wind in power generation in Texas has decreased from 42% to 8%. How can that be, you wonder, when the Texas Electric Reliability Council (Ercot) reports that wind is only 10% of its winter capacity.
Ercot’s disclosure is slippery. Start with the term “capacity” which means potential maximum performance. This is different from the actual generation of electricity. Texas has a total winter capacity of approximately 83,000 megawatts (MW) including all power sources. However, the total power demand and power generation usually only peak at around 57,000 MW. The regulators let the system loose.
Texas has a wind capacity of around 30,000 MW, but the winds are not constant or predictable. Winds last month generated between 600 and 22,500 MW. Regulators do not expect wind to provide more than 10% of the total capacity of the network, as they cannot order turbines to increase output, as they do with coal and gas plants.