Texas power grid failure explained

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moonshadow
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Texas power grid failure explained

Post by moonshadow »

Unbiased and non-political...

Grady from Practical Engineering explains the mechanics of what exactly happened in Texas...

https://youtu.be/08mwXICY4JM
-MS
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Re: Texas power grid failure explained

Post by crfriend »

moonshadow wrote:
Sat Mar 27, 2021 10:37 pm
Grady from Practical Engineering explains the mechanics of what exactly happened in Texas...
It's good, but it glosses over the human factors that enabled the entire collapse, and that's that everybody in the current generation (age-wise) forgot the lessons that their parents learned, and that's the the plains can be a very nasty place every so many years. So, pipes weren't buried deep enough, wind-turbines didn't have de-icers built in, and backup generation could not fire up because the cooling water was frozen.

That was not a failure of "the grid", that was an upstream failure in generation caused by human-factors which precipitated the failure that Grady points up.

As an aside, generation does not "trip" because of frequency, it trips due to phase -- which, as Grady pointed up by mentioning that all the generators are magnetically coupled -- and if that gets out by more than about a few degrees (360 degrees in a circle, each revolution taking nominally 1/60th of a second, although nominally the way the windings work slows the rotational rate) out the stresses can physically rip the equipment apart. Replacing the equipment might take months, ot possibly years. This makes a "black start" look trivial.

Every 30 years or so, Texas freezes. About every 25 years the folks who understand that from hard lessons learned retire or die off. Sadly, this turns into "rinse, lather, repeat". Thus 2021.

Those who do not study history are doomed to repeat it.
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Re: Texas power grid failure explained

Post by pelmut »

It also comes down to economics:  Do you go to a lot of expense guarding againgst something that only happens once in 30 years or do you sell cheaper electricity now and leave your customers in the lurch if things go wrong?  The public has voted for the latter with their cheque books.
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Re: Texas power grid failure explained

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pelmut wrote:
Sun Mar 28, 2021 7:35 am
The public has voted for the latter with their cheque books.
Ah the only vote that counts anymore! :wink:
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Re: Texas power grid failure explained

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pelmut wrote:
Sun Mar 28, 2021 7:35 am
It also comes down to economics:  Do you go to a lot of expense guarding againgst something that only happens once in 30 years or do you sell cheaper electricity now and leave your customers in the lurch if things go wrong?  The public has voted for the latter with their cheque books.
That sort of thinking is what the regulators should be looking to step on because it creates risk -- sometimes lethal risk as we have seen -- for the mere increase in profit (the consumer does not matter in this equation, only the private companies operated for profit in a monopoly setting). The for-profit companies hate that because it diminishes The Bottom Line and fight the regulations tooth-and-nail. The ultimate loser is the customers -- who are a captive market anyway, so it doesn't matter.

In this case, ERCOT failed hundreds of thousands of Texans, and the only entity that can hold it accountable is the Texas legislature, many of whom are likely bought and paid for (at least in part) by -- you guessed it -- ERCOT and the various for-profit companies. Thus, "Rinse, Lather, Repeat".

I am a big, big proponent of municipally-owned power companies. Generally speaking, the reliability is vastly higher (e.g. the mains quit only very rarely) and the cost per kWH is generally a fraction of that charged by the for-profit companies.
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Re: Texas power grid failure explained

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crfriend wrote:
Sun Mar 28, 2021 1:03 pm
I am a big, big proponent of municipally-owned power companies. Generally speaking, the reliability is vastly higher (e.g. the mains quit only very rarely) and the cost per kWH is generally a fraction of that charged by the for-profit companies.
"City of Bedford" power purchases its electricity from AEP (American Electric Power), the only thing the city owned was the delivery infrastructure (lines, poles, substations etc). I believe Radford is the same way, and I'm left to assume many Virginia cities simply buy their power from for-profit companies.

I'm really not sure, but I do know that everywhere I've lived (in towns or the county) we've always gotten power from Appalachian Power (AEP), except for when we lived in Bedford County, folks along VA route 122 get their power from the "City of Bedford" for some reason, despite living ten miles outside of city limits. Folks on the southern side of the county got their power from some co-op called "Southside", which I've been told can be very expensive.

Electrical infrastructure in the U.S. is a fascinating subject.

All told, I've been an APCO customer since 2003, and I've been pleased with the reliability and the cost. Outages are rare and usually short lived. Even after the tornado hit our neighborhood in Pulaski and ripped the lines to shreds, APCO had power restored within three days (it took my house two weeks, but that was because the storm ripped my meter mast off the house, which wasn't APCO's fault... I had to have that fixed first.)

The SCC (state corporation commission) of Virginia holds private electric companies like APCO to a high standard. They [the private electrical lobby] tried to totally deregulate Virginia about 20 years ago and generally failed. Some aspects were deregulated, but not all. Guess it's a good thing, or we'd be like Texas today.

Interestingly, the most unreliable power I've ever known was when we were on the "City of Bedford", it went out all the time. Of course some of that could be the result of living so far out in the county.

During the blizzard of '93 I remember we lost power for almost two weeks, but to be fair, that was a hell of a storm that crippled a large portion of the eastern U.S.

In my current house, we are on the same line as the local Walmart, so outages are usually promptly resolved. (Gotta take care of Walmart! :wink: )
-MS
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Re: Texas power grid failure explained

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Correction...

"City of Bedford" power purchases its electricity from AEP (American Electric Power), the only thing the city owned was the delivery infrastructure (lines, poles, substations etc). I believe Radford is the same way, and I'm left to assume many Virginia cities simply buy their power from for-profit companies.

That's what I get for relying of hearsay... went to the COB electric website... interesting read, and also explains why highway 122 received power from the City... likely because VA 122 is the main route to the James River where the city owns a hydro plant still in operation....

Huh... the more you know...

https://www.bedfordva.gov/150/Electric-Department

Quoted from the page:

History of Services
The Town of Bedford Electric Department was established in 1899 to provide electric service to the residents, businesses and industries of the Town of Bedford and part of Bedford County. More than 100 years later, the department is still working to provide the same high quality service to the area. At the present time, Bedford serves 5,609 residential and 883 commercial/industrial customers with 700 miles of distribution and transmission lines in the Town of Bedford and Bedford County.

Operations & Facilities
The Electric Department operates and maintains 11 substations and a hydro plant. In order to provide reliability to its customers, the Electric Department has 2 interconnection points with AEP, Mosely Substation and Centerville Substation. Bedford currently purchases wholesale power from AMP-Ohio to meet it's peak demand of 53 megawatts. The town also generates a portion of it's electrical needs at its 5 megawatt hydro facility on the James River. The Department currently has 12 highly skilled professionals to operate and maintain its electrical system.

Snowden Hydro Electric Project
The Snowden Hydro Electric Project has been providing clean renewable energy to The Town of Bedford since the early 1900’s. It’s located on the James River just outside Big Island, Virginia. Flying over the plant shows it’s beautifully situated along the banks of the James. Snowden can power up to 1,000 homes when water conditions permit. It’s a key component of Bedford’s renewable energy portfolio which includes other hydro resources along with a utility scale solar project. Snowden hydro will continue to serve the customers of Bedford Electric for the next fifty years, providing low cost renewable energy.


*Note, the "Town of Bedford" was still an independent City when I moved in 2003. Interesting that they still operate their electric department, I always thought Virginia "towns" didnt bother with electric distribution.
-MS
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Re: Texas power grid failure explained

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It does come down to economics, or being cheapskate if you prefer. The root cause of the blackouts were having no regulations in place to winterize sources of power generation. That conditions do get cold enough to cause problems was known, if never experienced at this level before. Anybody who continues to deny climate change is frankly idiotic. You can deny or argue about the ***cause*** of it, if you insist, but to say it isn't happening is sticking your head in the sand. That being so, failing to consider what might happen outside of previously experience scenarios is not taking your responsibilities seriously. All segments of power generation, (with the possible exception of solar, which produces very little in such conditions any way) failed to provide adequate winterization. This will happen again, and is likely to get worse.

This also true of the home owners, and the HVAC and plumbing people. There was a video that popped up early that week, it was a big local plumbing contractor who was attempting to give his customers a heads up about what preparations they should make. I watched it with my jaw on the floor, as living in Canada, the concept of having your instant electric water heater mounted on the outside of the house was so bizarre I found it hard to credit. The contractor was advising people to fit, or to check and replace if necessary, the heat tapes which were intended to prevent the water lines freezing. Of course, that only works if your electricity supply is secure.

I don't say that we in Canada are any better overall, as I expect that demand for A/C in summer, and heating in winter will increase. My preferred answer is to strongly encourage, with grants and discounts as needed, to vastly improve the level of insulation for houses and other buildings. That at least has the potential to pay for itself.
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Re: Texas power grid failure explained

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Surely the American way is to have all the people who lost power sue the energy company for damages and then let the market sort it out? If it's more expensive to build a robust grid than paying compensation, then so be it.

You just need to deal with the possibility of the energy company going bankrupt after a power failure. Apparently that has already happened, and not even due to compensation but to the power costs for power than was available.

Here after a few hours residential customers get automatic compensation at €20 per hour so for even a small city the damages run into the millions per hour. For Texas (4 million customers, 4 days) I come up about $8 billion, which seems like a good start. I imagine it helps focus the minds of the energy company's on the cost/benefit analyses.

But in general if the market won't fix it, you need regulations.
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Re: Texas power grid failure explained

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rode_kater wrote:
Mon Mar 29, 2021 1:09 pm
Here after a few hours residential customers get automatic compensation at €20 per hour so for even a small city the damages run into the millions per hour. For Texas (4 million customers, 4 days) I come up about $8 billion, which seems like a good start. I imagine it helps focus the minds of the energy company's on the cost/benefit analyses.
And who's going to wind up paying for that? Eventually it will all filter its way to the end user (consumer). It's like suing the government, when the government pays out a large settlement, it's ultimately the tax payers that foot the bill. So when your electric provider has to come up with the money to pay these fines, they'll just raise rates on everyone. So you're the one actually paying the penalty.

I can't get behind that. Mainly because there will always be some low end scape goat to blame it on. Some guy like me, barely scratching a middle class living, just doing his job as best as he can who find himself in the hot seat, and winds up losing everything, being penniless and homeless, while those fat cat's that were really to blame, laugh all the way to the bank.

I think we should just let people do their job, I have every confidence the American electrical utilities want to get power restored to everybody ASAP, mainly because when houses sit dark, meters aren't turning, and money isn't being made. As Grady points out, there are substantial cost associated with power plants going offline. It messes with the entire grid, and has to be handled very carefully. They have to pay linemen to go out in all weather to repair what was damaged, there is the cost of labor, trucks, materials, etc, and again, all this while your customers aren't being billed because their meters aren't turning.

To add fines on top of that would just drive up unnecessary cost.
-MS
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Re: Texas power grid failure explained

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Besides, leave it to American's to figure out that they can make more money sitting in the dark than they would at their job, and I can see crafty rednecks trying to blow up neighborhood transformers, putting the whole street in the dark for several days waiting for the power company to finally get around to repairing it...

Nah... no thanks.

Texas and California could just stop being such mavericks about everything and just do like the other 48 states, and have sensible, normal electric infrastructures.
-MS
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