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Feb 22, 2021


Craig Peterson here.  This morning I was on with Chris Ryan on NH Today. We talked about what is going on in Texas and Why?  What did they do?  What assumptions did they make? Where do they go from here? Here we go with Chris. 

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Automated Machine Generated Transcript:

Justin McIssac: [00:00:00] Texas had a problem with this in 2011, just as the power company decided, it's going to cost too much to fix. With virtually no regulation, isn't that the issue, more than wind power itself,

Craig Peterson: [00:00:10] Almost a total grid collapsed down in Texas. I get into that. All of the statistics, the real numbers. Let's prove what's right here when we're talking about some of these renewable energy resources. I get into it all with Mr. Chris, Ryan, here we go.

Chris Ryan: [00:00:28] To be our new newscaster here on New Hampshire today. As we move to a little bit more serious topic, certainly for individuals involved down in Texas. I think this, obviously, when you see things happen in other States, you start to think about what could happen in my state. What could happen here in New Hampshire? The energy failure in regards to the grid in Texas is deeply concerning. What have you seen in regards to that and what do you attribute it to?

Craig Peterson: [00:00:53] Chris, we talked a few weeks ago here about what could happen with even something like a massive solar flare. That it really could knock out our electric grid. This would be a major problem, because even as we're burning oil You still need electricity in order to get that heat flowing through your house, whether it's via water or by air.

Obviously, what's happened in Texas is not terribly unique and it's a little different than the rest of the country.

First of all, Texas has its own power grid. Texas has been very independent over the years. They are not connected to anyone out in the country. So they're making their own, they're using natural gas, coal, wind, and nuclear power. In fact, they've had a very, strong move towards wind power because normally speaking wind is a very big deal.

I'm looking at the production numbers, for electricity here in megawatt-hours in Texas. Number one is natural gas, then coal, and then wind. The wind production went down from over 8,000 megawatt-hours down to 649. But so did everything else, Chris?

Justin McIssac: [00:02:07] So, Craig, isn't this more of an issue of Texas, the Texas power company, didn't get its turbines ready for winterization. Rather than wind power is an issue of wind. Turbines running the North sea. They're running in Antarctica, Canada, other places. Texas had a problem with this in 2011. The power company decided that it's going to cost too much to fix. So with virtually no regulation, isn't that the issue more than wind power itself.

Craig Peterson: [00:02:30] Yeah, it is. Everything went down. Natural gas went down from 43,000-megawatt hours down to 30. That's a pretty dramatic cut looking at it,  lost almost a quarter of the natural gas. Nothing in Texas, including the wind power was ready for this type of cold weather.

They had valves that were exposed to the elements out there. They just had an almost perfect storm and it's worse than I think many people realize.

If the grid had gone offline and they were minutes away from losing the entire grid, it would have been months before everything could have been fixed.

Let me explain all of that. Bottom line is you need to reboot your electric grid in much the same way you might reboot your network at the office. You need to have extremely large generators of some type that can provide that frequency, that clock in order to get all of the other parts of the grid online.

Now there's other problems, too. You look at natural gas, which is again, number one in Texas for feeding homes and electrical generation with natural gas. If the supply starts to run out and dwindle, which it did because of frozen valves. Much the same problem that wind had. But because of frozen valves, the pressure continues to drop.  Natural gas mixed with oxygen is very, very bad. The pressure drops to a certain point where all of a sudden there is more atmospheric pressure or almost an equal amount than there is in those pipelines. You're mixing air with gas.  Now all of a sudden you have gas lines blowing up all over the place. In addition to having pipes freezing.

Yeah, Justin, you're right. This is a failure of wind, but it's also a failure of everything else. Even the nuclear power went from over 5,000 megawatt-hours down to 3,800. They just were not prepared for this at all.

By the skin of their teeth, they're going to manage to survive something where people could have been without power for months in a worst-case scenario.

Chris Ryan: [00:04:50] This has been a big discussion in regards to renewable energy versus fossil fuels and which works. A lot of folks have pointed to the wind issue, here where you're right they all lost considerable amounts down,  20 to 25% in natural gas, coal, and nuclear. But winds lost obviously the most during the height of the storm. So, in your view, is it more about renewable versus traditional fossil fuel type of an argument, or is it an infrastructure piece where they were not prepared for wind to be able to be functional in this environment. Where wind has proven to be functional in other cold-weather areas?

Craig Peterson: [00:05:31] Well, there's a, quite a few problems, frankly, with wind and the technology we're using. These windmills did not totally freeze up. The big problem was the same problem you have with icing on the wing of an airplane. These windmills are a lot like airplane wings. They rely on the surface sizes and shapes in order to be able to get the most effective bite, if you will, into that wind. So those surfaces got covered with ice.

Was that a problem that could be solved? Oh, you bet. Look at our airplanes. Even the small ones they have on the leading edge of the wings, little bladders, and those bladders in icing conditions swell up. They blow up and they go down, up and down, up and down so that they keep all of the ice off.

So, no question at all, this problem could have been solved before it even happened.

Wind, I kind of like. I'm not a big wind fan. There is so many problems long-term. They're expensive to maintain. There are people who've had to move out of the areas with windmills, because of the low-frequency vibration. It was driving them crazy. Then there's the bird kill.

There is a problem with everything, frankly, when you get right down to it from the natural gas on out.

They could have done something about it. They are probably going to doing something about it. Right now, here in New Hampshire, we have a, I think, a better system, but we're thinking about what is our problem?

The largest nuclear power reactor in New England provides us with 61% of our electrical grid generation power. Again, it is winterized. We have a lot of biomass for generating electricity here in New Hampshire. That's about 17% of New Hampshire's from renewable resources and we still have two of our three coal-fired plants operating here in New Hampshire.

So, add all of that up we are a little better off. We're also set up for winter. We do have, by the way, electricity from wind here. In fact, 2016 was the first time that we had more electricity in New Hampshire from the wind than from coal. It's something that can be managed. They just didn't bother managing it. Now they're talking about connecting to the rest of the grid in the United States for a couple of different reasons. It's probably a smart thing to do. Just like here in New Hampshire, we don't have our own grid. We have a grid that covers new England, so we can feed electricity back and forth.

Chris Ryan: [00:08:15] As always, I appreciate you joining us for the show.

Craig Peterson: [00:08:17] Thank you.

Chris Ryan: [00:08:18] All right. That is Craig Peterson. Joining us here on Hampshire today. I am Chris Ryan. You can hear tech talk with Craig on Saturdays and Sundays,

Craig Peterson: [00:08:25] by the way. We're almost finished up with those cyber health assessment worksheets for everybody.  I'm going to record a little bit of audio to kind of explain them. Anybody that asked for the cyber health assessment stuff of that will be coming your way in a couple of weeks.

And as I've mentioned before, I think I'm expecting next week-ish, to be able to have out that Improving Windows Security course.

All right. Everybody, take care.

We'll be back tomorrow.


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