The part played by wind power in February’s power crisis across Texas was initially overstated, according to a new analysis by the Electric Reliability Council of Texas (ERCOT). New figures presented by the state’s grid manager show that wind turbine outages only accounted for a small fraction of the gigawatts of gas power generation that went offline. This data is contrary to claims that almost as much wind power fell off the grid as natural gas.
According to ERCOT, the main reason for the initial discrepancy was that the total amount of lost power was calculated based on 100 percent of wind-generating capacity in Texas. However, this level of power generation is never planned for in practice. ERCOT revised the calculations based on actual wind farm production expectations had the winter storm not occurred. This figure showed the losses to be much smaller.
For example, at 8 a.m. on February 16, in the midst of the week-long energy crisis, 4,000 megawatts of wind power was offline, compared to 25,000 megawatts of natural gas-generated power.
The updated data also provides more information on why natural gas plants were offline. The new appraisal showed 18 percent of cases were related to problems with the gas supply. This figure was a six percent increase from the initial assessment.
The main reason for the outage remains the lack of winterized equipment. Lawmakers have supported legislation requiring power plant operators and gas suppliers to upgrade their generators and transmission infrastructure to cope with cold weather.
ERCOT’s revised calculations are likely to provide new fuel for a debate that has been raging since the grid failure. Gov. Greg Abbott, Lt. Gov Dan Patrick, and leading Republican lawmakers have attacked renewable energy as one of the leading causes of February’s crisis. Meanwhile, other energy industry experts have countered that all major power generating sources failed, suggesting a fundamental problem with the Texas energy market.