Good morning, it’s 8 degrees with more than 6 inches of snow lingering on the ground for the second straight day. No, I’m not writing from our cabin high in the New Mexico mountains— we’re in Austin!
We’re in frozen Austin, Texas for Pete’s sake!! The photo above is our back yard today. Beautiful… but cold.
Lights on, lights off, all day Monday and overnight and again just now on Tuesday afternoon. My wife’s CPap machine was off for hours overnight leaving her gasping for breath each time the power went down. Cell phones dead, heat off, it’s cold inside, kids who were to attend school online today can’t— the internet’s dead. Can’t check stock, gold or silver prices today. Geee!
Seems like this is the perfect time to write about “green” energy, power problems, and how we transition to cleaner energy.
Wind Turbines Freeze, Power Off for Millions in Texas
The Texas grid lost a small portion of its energy production over the weekend as wind turbines froze to a halt.
Natural gas supplies available to electrical plants became scarce and some of them shut down.
By Sunday evening, all types of energy sources were falling off the grid: nuclear plants, coal plants and thermal energy generators.
Facing record-level usage, the grid was short 34,000 megawatts of energy. Power distributors were forced to cut off customers to prevent the grid from shutting down completely. We’re in a rolling blackout right now.
So, our power is off, it’s 8 degrees outside and we’re writing on an IPad that’s only 23% charged. With no electricity, the heaters are off and the gas fireplace that “switches” on does not work.
We’re Staring Lots of Green Energy Issues in the Face Today
Now, Americans usually enjoy the world’s cheapest and most reliable electrical power. But transitioning to green energy won’t be cheap, easy, or overnight.
Texas has windmills everywhere from just north of Central Texas to Lubbock. The fast-growing population of the state and influx of people and industries escaping California has had Texas energy companies in long-range planning mode for decades.
Under normal conditions, we have a solid power grid. The Texas energy grid uses a mix of energy sources.
- The largest energy source, natural gas plants, supply 40%.
- Wind provides 24% of Texas electricity.
- Coal supplies 18%.
- Nuclear at 11%.
- Solar provides 2%.
Houston We Have A Lot of Problems
The current blackouts are unusual here, but do help us understand the problems of moving toward a green energy future.
Part of today’s blackouts are due to frozen windmills. FROZEN WINDMILLS?? Who knew the massive wind turbines ice-up and stop operating?
If even 2% of Texas energy from windmills goes offline due to freezing, it’s a serious problem. With wind providing 24% of Texas energy, it’s important to keep in mind other wind issues. First, the wind does not always blow. Sometimes it blows too hard and the wind turbines must be shut down. We saw hundreds of idle windmills due to high winds as we drove across Texas last month.
Solar also has major issues. With a blanket of snow across Texas and little sunlight, solar energy falls off the grid completely. It’s hard for sunlight to get through six inches of snow! At other times, winter days are short and solar does nothing, nada, zilch to the support the grid at night when people are home charging cars.
Toyota Says We Need Patience in Moving to Electric Vehicles
Toyota President and CEO Akio Toyoda back in January of 2020 gave these warnings that the automobile world may be going to electric vehicles too quickly.
* “The current business model of the car industry is going to collapse if the industry shifts to EV too hastily.”
* The infrastructure needed to support a 100 percent EV fleet would cost Japan between $135 billion to $358 billion. It will cost the U.S. many times that. We’re a huge country and very spread out.
He concluded with the points I want to stress—
“Japan would run out of electricity by summer if all cars were running on electric power already.”
“Almost all of the country’s electricity is generated by burning coal and natural gas, so it’s not necessarily helping the environment.”
“The more EVs we build, the worse carbon dioxide gets…When politicians are out there saying, ‘Let’s get rid of all cars using gasoline,’ do they understand this?”
No Such Thing As Free Energy for Autos
Most people seem to think electric vehicles run on free, non-polluting, carbon-free electricity. That is a myth. It’s an illusion. When you drive an electric vehicle, you’ll come home every night and plug-in your car.
You will have paid an electrician $800 to $1,300 to install a charging station in your garage. Overnight the wheels in your electric meter will be spinning rapidly transferring energy produced by your electric company into your car’s batteries.
If you live in Texas, our power plants are driven 40% by natural gas, 18% by coal, and 11% nuclear energy. It apparent to me that 18% of the electric vehicles in Texas will, in reality, be running on coal.
18% of Texas Electric Vehicles Really Run on Coal
The top 10 states using coal to produce electricity are also the top 10 states that use coal to power their electric vehicles.
Unfortunately, coal is the most-used electrical generation source in 18 states. From 2007 to 2017 the coal problem continued as you can see in this graph.
More Natural Gas Plants Coming to Texas
Let’s now make the problem with EVs even more complicated. As the electricity just went off in my Austin home, we remind you that we will need to add more and more power plants across Texas to charge the coming EV’s.
Those power plants in Texas will surely be built using cheap, locally produced, natural gas. Why? Because solar can’t charge one single car at night. Windmills produce less electricity at night without the sun warming of the Earth.
The current electric grid cannot store power. Electric generating stations must run continuously 24/7/365 in some combination.
The biggest shortfall in energy production today stemmed from natural gas as pipelines were blocked with ice or their compressors lost power. Much of the gas was prioritized for heating homes and businesses rather than generating electricity.
Power surges and declines are now managed by putting additional power generators online and offline to handle the loads.
According to Bloomberg, electricity prices in northern Texas jumped to $300 per megawatt-hour, up from the average this month of $18 per megawatt-hour. Wholesale natural gas prices, meanwhile, shot up as much as 4,000 percent.
We Love Green Energy
If you are an anti-fracker, we appreciate and fully understand the reasons why “green energy” sounds so appealing. Electric cars sound like the perfect solution. But it’s not that simple. Every single EV depends on the local power grid to provide the auto with power.
Imagine a future where every gas filling station must be replaced with “electric” charging pumps. A fill up with gasoline now takes five minutes. It takes 10 hours at 220 volts to charge a 2021 Tesla.
17% of Americans live in apartments or condos. How will they charge their cars overnight? It’s hard to imagine parking lots full of electric charging stations— but they’re coming, we suppose.
We are sorely concerned about those who are not wealthy and cannot afford a thousand dollar charging station much less a Tesla. The poor are left out of the green energy equation completely. I know you’re thinking, “Let them take mass transit.”
As I write, I can occasionally hear the distant sound of the Austin light rail. The problem is it’s empty or almost empty every day. Yet, back and forth the trains go burning diesel fuel to make electrical power to move the nearly empty train. Buses, while often filled with homeless riders keeping warm use diesel too.
Replacing mass transit systems to one powered by green energy will prove exhaustingly expensive and take decades.
As someone who is now driving my second Toyota hybrid vehicle, I love getting 25 to 30 miles a gallon. I appreciate the concept of cleaner energy for my grandchildren.
But, radical transitions in society take time. They have real costs for building infrastructure. We will pay those costs. Most importantly it will take time.
After the Rural Electrification Act of 1936, it took until 1950 to get electricity to 80% of rural farms.
It took from the invention of the telephone in 1877 until 1950 for 61% of American households to get a telephone,
The Interstate Highway system took 62 years to complete from 1956.
Our Conclusions on Green Energy
We support many ideals of green energy, but not the radical approach to having government and the rest of world dictating how the United States should address.
We’ve heard this “global warming” story before starting back with President Carter making us turn off our Christmas lights and warning us that the world is running out of oil and natural gas. The story of global “warming” has been modified to promote fear of “climate change” and New York sinking into the Atlantic Ocean.
May we suggest more realistic, logical goals and timelines to get us on the right paths to green energy? We suggest converting those nasty coal-fired generation plants to natural gas as a first priority.
This ice storm has shown us many of the problems we may face with frozen windmills and snow-covered solar panels, even in the Deep South of Central Texas.
I have to go now and post this online in the few minutes our home will still have electricity and the internet before the next blackout. Meanwhile, everybody chill out!