By Al Fonzi
Al Fonzi is an independent opinion columnist for The Atascadero News and Paso Robles Press; you can email him at firstname.lastname@example.org.
My March 11 column, “A Dark Green Power Failure,” panned by critics as “no facts to back up (my assertions),” was based upon data from the government’s Energy Information Administration and documented by national publications such as The Wall Street Journal (WSJ).
The Electric Reliability Council of Texas (Ercot) states that Texas “counts on wind to meet only 10 percent of its winter capacity,” but this statement requires further analysis.
The term capacity is defined as potential maximum output, which is different from actual power generation. As the WSJ reported, Texas’s “total winter power capacity is approximately 83 megawatts (MW) from all sources. Total electrical demand/generation at peak is about 57 MW. Windmills capacity is about 30,000 MW but due to failure to winterize and lack of wind only generated between 600 and 22,500 MW in February.” As the Journal reported, power generated by wind dropped from 42 percent to 8 percent and, in one case, to no more than 2 percent. Nuclear power was ramped up, but un-winterized natural gas plants experienced serious mechanical failures during the severe cold as it dropped into single-digits. Texas occasionally experiences severe cold snaps like this, so there’s no excuse for not being prepared.
When wind doesn’t blow, something else has to generate power lest severe damage occurs to equipment. The fallacy of reliance upon wind and solar is the inability to surge when demand soars as it did during the Texas deep freeze; windmills are unpredictable and pose their own set of problems. Solar was incapacitated by darkness and snow cover, thereby forcing more reliance upon fossil fuels and nuclear power.
Unfortunately, as my previous article stated, subsidies to alternative energy sources at the expense of conventional power sources created economic distortions to re-direct funds away from natural gas, coal, and nuclear. Profits were elevated above winterization. The result was a failure to winterize conventional power plants in the same manner as such plants are winterized in northern states. Reliability was sacrificed to hubris and a failure to make realistic decisions, dismissing the probability of a very severe winter storm and its impact upon a fragile grid. Compounding this was the removal of the Texas electrical grid from the national grid in an effort to isolate Texas from Federal regulators. There was no ability to obtain additional power from other states at a time of crisis.
Obtaining power from lesser-impacted states doesn’t always work. We recently experienced rolling power blackouts in California because massive heatwaves throughout the West resulted in no additional power to purchase from any source. Portions of California went dark and will continue to do so; expect even more severe blackouts of longer duration in the future if our current “Green” energy policies continue at the expense of nuclear, coal, natural gas, and hydroelectric power; California is shutting multiple conventional power plants down without reliable energy backup systems.
Given that the Tech industry uses massive amounts of electrical power and continues to exponentially grow along with increasing government demands to switch to electric vehicles, where is the power to come from to supply all of this power? I don’t see anything on the horizon that will effectively meet the near-term electrical power demand, let alone the amount required to eliminate fossil fuels in transportation by the mandate of 2035.
My arguments are not about resistance to change but the headlong plunge into alternative energy sources without proper concern about the pitfalls of limiting our energy systems to only a few politically acceptable sources. The national media doesn’t help; it routinely misinforms via fear-mongering about conventional energy sources while ignoring the vulnerabilities of an electrical power-dependent civilization to grid failure. Alternative energy sources can provide a small measure of power and lessen energy costs to homeowners and businesses but must be backed up by conventional sources. Proponents of alternatives also seem to assume that energy demand will remain stable, but demographic projections indicate a massive future demand for power that we are incapable of meeting under current “Pollyanna” assumptions.
I suggest readers take a look at two interesting books on these subjects:
A Question of Power: Electricity and the Wealth of Nations by Robert Bryce and The Moral Case for Fossil Fuels by Alex Epstein. Knowledge is power, and your future and the future of your children will depend upon the informed or uninformed decisions you make today.