A Free-Market Energy Blog

Texas’s Wounded Grid (yes, it’s windpower again)

By Robert Bradley Jr. -- July 12, 2022

“While solar power is generally reaching near-full generation capacity, wind generation is currently generating significantly less than what it historically generated in this time period. Current projections show wind generation coming in less than 10 percent of its capacity.” (ERCOT, below)

“The saga is not over but will likely get worse. Wind and solar are still being added to the grid, and the politicians and regulators will have to resort to more and more intervention to keep the lights on over time.” (RLB, below)

The Sunday announcement was for yesterday: a conservation alert between 2 pm and 8 pm because of disappearing wind power:

ERCOT Issues Conservation Appeal to Texans and Texas Businesses

Appeal Effective Monday, July 11, 2022

With extreme hot weather driving record power demand across Texas, the Electric Reliability Council of Texas (ERCOT) is issuing a Conservation Appeal, asking Texans and Texas businesses to voluntarily conserve electricity, Monday, July 11 between 2-8 p.m. ERCOT also issued a Watch for a projected reserve capacity shortage from 2-8 p.m. At this time, no system-wide outages are expected.

Conservation is a reliability tool ERCOT has deployed more than four dozen times since 2008 to successfully manage grid operations. This notification is issued when projected reserves may fall below 2300 MW for 30 minutes or more.

ERCOT encourages all electric customers to visit the Public Utility Commission’s (PUC) Power to Save or their electric provider’s websites to get important conservation tips. According to the PUC, ways to reduce electricity use during peak times include turning up your thermostat a degree or two, if comfortable, and postponing running major appliances or pool pumps during afternoon peak hours.

ERCOT continues to use all tools available to manage the grid effectively and reliably, including using reserve power and calling upon large electric customers who have volunteered to lower their energy use.

ERCOT emphasizes that the call for conservation is limited to the hours of 2-8 p.m. Factors driving the need for this important action by customers:

  • Record high electric demand. The heat wave that has settled on Texas and much of the central United States is driving increased electric use. Other grid operators are operating under similar conservative operations programs as ERCOT due to the heatwave.
  • Low wind. While solar power is generally reaching near full generation capacity, wind generation is currently generating significantly less than what it historically generated in this time period. Current projections show wind generation coming in less than 10 percent of its capacity.

Under current projected scenarios, performance of the generation fleet Monday is:

Installed CapacityMonday (7/11) Tightest Hour (2-3 p.m.)Percentage of Installed Capacity Available at Tightest Hour


Now think of opportunity cost. As Bill Peacock explained:

To put this is context, Robert Bryce estimated that generators have spent at least $56 billion building wind farms in Texas. The 8% projected capacity of wind at peak demand tomorrow means about $51.5 billion of that investment was wasted. If that amount had been put into natural gas generation, Texans would not be under a statewide “conservation appeal” and wondering if their lights and air conditioners will stay on today.

Yes, and more so. Wind (and solar) have wounded the Lone Star State’s grid and exposed the perils of central planning by the (misnamed) Electric Reliability Council of Texas (ERCOT). Already, a news story in the Houston Chronicle recently warned that ERCOT was issuing mandatory stay-in-service orders to natural gas-fired plants that would otherwise be in maintenance preparing for the August peak. The can is being kicked down the road, as Shelby Webb documents:

After two decades of relying on market mechanisms, namely prices, to bring power on and off the grid, the PUC and the Electric Reliability Council of Texas are instead ordering generators to keep plants running — even when the electricity isn’t needed — to ensure a comfortable supply cushion.

In addition to adding costs for consumers, power generators say they’re losing money and damaging aging equipment to meet the new requirements, signaling they may mothball some plants, or shut them down for good, due to wear and tear.

Translated: After more than a decade of forcing unreliable wind and solar on the grid, reliable generation has been forced off the grid because of low margins and unavailable financing. Gas-fired and coal-fired units have been prematurely retired, new capacity has not been added, and surviving capacity has been poorly maintained. It is a triple Atlas Shrugged.

I have explained the underlying problems of government-managed Texas grid in many posts at MasterResource and at IER. Two posts of particular import are here:

Expect the mainstream media, covering for the “Green New Deal,” to blame the Texas problem on global warming or on the politicians/regulators for not doing enough to shore up capacity. But the true blame goes to a damaging mix of:

  • A centrally planned wholesale power market (via ERCOT) that did not know how to price (mispriced) reliable capacity
  • Forced capacity additions from wind and solar via federal and state subsidies.

The saga is not over but will likely get worse. Wind and solar are still being added to the grid, and the politicians and regulators will have to resort to more and more intervention to keep the lights on–next time.


  1. Dan McKay  

    The ISO New England Interconnection Queue lists the current status of requests for the interconnection of new or uprated (increased capacity) generating facilities in New England, it is dominated by solar, wind and battery storage projects.
    As ISO-NE threatens to corrupt the free-market formula that guided the establishment of reliable sources of electricity by promoting a carbon penalty to fossil fuel plants, it won’t be long before New England follows the Texas debacle.


  2. Dan McKay  

    Go to the website “Citizens’ Task Force on Windpower-Maine” to read the latest of the pending New England energy catastrophe.


  3. Tim Fellure  

    NIPSCO Now Agrees It Overstated The Capacity Value for Indiana Wind Resources in Its IRP
    It uses an estimate that the UCAP (ELCC) of wind resources from PPAs of approximately 13.5%-15% of the installed capacity of those resources.
    It is consistent with the average across the MISO system in 2017 of 15.2%, but the assigned UCAP for wind varies across the zones in the MISO system based on how likely the wind resource is to operate during MISO’s peak demand hours. Further, MISO projects that, as wind penetration increases, the ELCC of wind resources will fall from the current 15.2% towards 12.5%.
    As shown in Figure 1 below, wind in Indiana only received 7.4%. That is less than one-half of the ~15% used in NIPSCO’s IRP. The spread of ELCC and UCAP across MISO is shown in Figure 1 below. The higher ELCCs are in the Plains states, while the lowest is in Indiana.

    It means that the cost of wind resources is understated. If the UCAP for 1,000 MW of wind in a portfolio was only 74 MW (7.4%) instead of 150 MW (15%), that means NIPSCO should have included costs for an additional 76 MW of capacity. If capacity costs $100/kw-year, for example, that means each year should include an additional $7.6 million in costs, i.e., NIPSCO understates the wind resource cost by $7.6 million annually in this example.

    NIPSCO assumes that MISO capacity costs will be approximately $25/kw-year in constant dollar terms.13 The UCAP at 15% ELCC for the wind resources in the preferred Portfolio F is 157 MW, so at 7.4% it would be 77 MW; the difference in UCAP between those two levels is 80 MW. At the capacity price level assumed by NIPSCO in its IRP, that is about $2 million annually in constant dollars, or about NPV $20 million that NIPSCO is understating the cost of wind resources in Portfolio F. But NIPSCO’s assumption for capacity pricing is based on a belief that marginal capacity is cheap, because regulated utilities are assumed to overbuild to 17%-19% reserve margins. If one instead assumed that over time capacity would have to be priced at the cost of new entry of $84/kw-year, the understatement of wind resource ELCC and UCAP would be NPV $68 million.

    Testimony from Indiana Utility Regulatory Commission hearing for cause #45195 NIPSCO,NextEra Energy/Jordan Creek Wind Farm Warren County,Indiana power purchase agreement in 2019.
    Jordan Creek Wind Farm is a replacement for the coal base load generation plants being closed by NIPSCO.


  4. Tim Fellure  

    To an extent, yes. However, the issue is that renewable facilities cannot be counted on to the same extent as transmission facilities and conventional generation facilities to support NIPSCO’s peak system demand. Transmission facilities, since they are passive in nature and typically have a very low forced outage rate, have a very high availability of nearly 100% at the time of peak system demand. Conventional
    generation facilities, due to their fuel arrangements and having equivalent forced
    outage rates typically in the range of 5 to 25%,have an availability 75 to 95% of their
    summer rated MW capability at the time of peak system demand. In contrast, the most recent studies by NIPSCO’s Regional Transmission Organization (“RTO”) show that, on a MISO-wide basis, wind generation facilities on average can be expected to have an availability of approximately 15.2% of their nameplate MW rating at the time of peak system demand and solar generation facilities can be expected to have an availability of approximately 50% of their nameplate capability at the time of peak system demand. Therefore, with respect to supporting peak system demand, a nameplate MW of wind generation capacity on average provides approximately 16 to 20% of the same support that would be provided by a summer rated capability MW of conventional generation. Similarly, a nameplate MW of solar generation capacity on average provides approximately 53 to 67% of the same support toward meeting peak demand that would be provided by a summer rated capability MW of conventional generation. Given this, a minimum of 16% of the total cost of wind PPAs and a minimum 53% of the total cost of solar PPAs should be allocated to customer classes on the same basis as the fixed
    costs of conventional generating facilities.
    Testimony from Indiana Utility Regulatory Commission hearing for cause #45194 NIPSCO,Rosewater wind in 2019.


  5. Sherri Lange  

    Excellent piece that outlines the extreme vulnerability of grids in heat waves, or any extreme weather events, while adding and taking away, in disastrous manners. Removing what works, and adding unreliable fickle wind.

    Stop These Things Writes:

    “Think of it as a malignant cancer that spreads and ultimately devours its host. Wrecking the profitability of conventional generators is integral to the model of punitive mandates and ludicrously generous subsidies, which advance the unreliables at the expense of everything else that works. A power pricing and supply calamity soon follows.”

    “Forced capacity additions from wind and solar via federal and state subsidies.” You said it!


  6. Richard Greene  

    Texas still has vulnerability to extreme cold weather, which caused blackouts in February 2011 and February 2021. The lack of “weatherization” affects power plants and other energy sector infrastructure. It might be another ten years before the next blackout, or next winter. No one knows. But everyone knows the extreme cold weather problem has not been fixed. Building more windmills was not the answer, but that’s what happened after the 2011 blackout that affected 3.2 million Texans. Even worse, the windmills do not have the optional blade deicers, a decision made to save money. So even they were affected by the extreme cold!


  7. Richard Greene  

    A few more facts about Texas

    They made investments in wind power very profitable so that’s what they got = more windmills

    Having so many windmills requires either 100% fossil fuel backup or lots of extremely expensive batteries.

    That back up has to work in extremely cold weather — it does not in Texas.

    Texas spare grid capacity is about half the national average. Because of so many windmills, their spare grid capacity
    should have been way above average

    Texas interconnection capacity is the smallest of all US grids. Because of so many windmills, their interconnection capacity
    should have been the largest in the nation.

    The amazing fact is that it took 10 years for another Texas extreme cold weather blackout — from February 2011
    to February 2021. They were lucky for 10 years.


  8. Nat Treadway  

    Just as every use of electricity at the moment of peak demand is responsible for peak, every producing unit is either producing at that moment or not. Fossil units are designed to run at peak. If they don’t, they’ve failed. Wind and solar are not designed that way.


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