Fact check: Bryce whiffs on wind power and Texas heat wave

12 August 2011 by Michael Goggin Michael Goggin

Talk about ingratitude: Robert Bryce, who lives in Texas, attacks wind power, which helped protect him from rolling blackouts last week, in a new National Review article.

Mr. Bryce may want to check in with the company that operates the Texas utility system to get his facts straight before he writes his next article. In fact, the Texas system operator, ERCOT (Electric Reliability Council of Texas), has been very clear that wind energy was the crucial factor keeping the lights and AC on for hundreds of thousands of Texans during last week's power shortages:

"Doggett [Trip Doggett, ERCOT CEO] said Monday that recently installed coastal wind farms — as opposed to the larger West Texas wind generation — provided crucial power at just the right time."

So what did cause last week's power shortage? It turns out that unexpected failures at around 20 fossil-fired power plants cut approximately 5-7% of the generating capacity the grid operator had been planning to use:

Folks in Texas may remember that a similar event occurred back in February, when around 80 mostly fossil-fired power plants experienced unexpected outages due to cold weather, which caused the lights and heat to go out for millions of Texans. Luckily wind energy output was there to save the day, keeping the lights on for around a million Texas households. If Mr. Bryce weren't on the payroll of the Exxon Mobil and Koch Industries-funded Manhattan Institute, he might have shown more thanks for wind energy keeping his lights on twice now in recent months.

Based on this recent history, Mr. Bryce's prescription for using more fossil-fired power plants instead of wind would have actually made Texas's power system less reliable. For those keeping score for reliability, wind energy is currently beating fossil fuel energy 2-0.

More reading:

Texas heat wave and utility integration:
After a scorching week, wind power lessons from the Texas heat wave, August 11, 2011
Wind helps meet new Texas record for electricity demand, August 4, 2011

As Texas utility system is stressed, wind generation shows up on schedule, August 3, 2011

Wind energy helps save day, February 4, 2011

How Wind Energy Is Reliably Integrated on the Grid, fact sheet


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