MINOT, N.D. — The problem with debating energy policy in modern America is that so much of the discourse is driven by reporters, who have been indoctrinated in the fossil-fuels-are-evil narrative since they were watching "Captain Planet" on Saturday mornings, and pugnacious pundits who aren't bright enough to actually be for anything but instead must wait to see what the other side says so they can know what they are against.
Our national conversation about energy — as millions and millions of Americans struggle with rolling blackouts that, in some cases, aren't rolling much — is focused on a stupidly binary debate.
Are fossil fuels to blame for the blackouts plaguing the middle part of America? Or is it renewables?
Many, including this correspondent, have been saying for years that the government-incented push toward energy sources such as wind has made our power grids less resilient. We correctly see the blackouts as an unhappy vindication of our arguments.
The rebuttal, often coming from the aforementioned pundits and Captain Planet fans, is that intermittent wind energy is only a part of the problem.
Where this line of reasoning fails is that it buys into the binary argument I just mentioned.
Once again, the main factors for the power outages are "frozen instruments at natural gas, coal and even nuclear facilities, as well as limited supplies of natural gas" and wind turbine shutdowns accounted for "less than 13%" of the outages.https://t.co/mICxepN1uq— Justin Baragona (@justinbaragona) February 16, 2021
That much of the power production serving the ERCOT (most of Texas) and Southwest Power Pool (northern Texas and 13 other states, including North Dakota) power grids were not prepared for freezing temperatures is a problem.
Seemingly every type of power production was impacted by the deep freeze, from nuclear to coal to wind.
It's an enormous debacle that is not just hurting people, but in some cases, killing them.
That travesty does not exonerate sources like wind power.
The rise of intermittent "renewable" energy has turned the already complex management of our nation's power grids into a byzantine nightmare. Everything from local mandates to massive government subsidies has pushed "renewable energy" onto the grids.
Often, when we demand the most output from our grids, those sources of energy aren't producing.
This means that other energy sources, those that don't rely on favorable weather conditions to produce, must be on standby to pick up the slack.
As I write this, at 10 a.m. Central time on Feb. 17, wind and solar are contributing less than 3% to the SPP grid (which, again, serves states stretching from Texas to North Dakota).
The wind-is-a-small-part-of-the-problem crowd can say "small part" because sources like wind and solar see production declines in the winter months. The ERCOT grid (again, most of Texas), which in optimal conditions counts wind as its second-largest energy source, only gets about 10% of its power from wind during the cold season.
That variability is the core of the problem.
If the wind weren't an intermittent source of energy (and maybe it won't be, one day, if we figure out how to store energy on a massive scale), if it operated like coal or natural gas plants, it could be counted to ramp up energy production when something like arctic weather hits.
A coal plant, operating at 75% capacity, could be called on to produce more energy to fill in gaps.
You can't do that with wind turbines. They only produce energy when the wind is blowing, and that's not always when we need it the most.
Yes, a problem with the ERCOT and SPP grids is that many of the power sources serving them were not prepared for frigid weather.
Another problem is that those grids are far too dependent on intermittent energy.
I'm afraid the latter point is going to be obscured by bleatings of those so besotted by renewable energy's promise that they cannot see its threats.
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Rob Port, founder of SayAnythingBlog.com, is a Forum Communications commentator. Reach him on Twitter at @robport or via email at email@example.com.