Fatal Attraction: America’s Big Freeze Reveals Deadly Danger of Unreliable Renewables

Relying on intermittent wind and solar requires a kind of blind faith that power might be delivered when needed most, such as the Big Freeze that hit America’s Mid-west last month, and the heatwave that hit Victoria and South Australia, the month before that.

On that score, STT’s post – Minnesota Madness: Big Freeze Exposes Wind & Solar’s Deadly Flaw – Hopeless Intermittency – must have hit a nerve. It went viral, with over 40,000 hits, so far.

Faced with the truly serious threat that comes with plunging temperatures, those who might have once entertained the idea of being ‘powered’ by sunshine and breezes, are probably a whole lot less inclined to risk their lives on the chaos that comes with wind and solar.

Let it be said that reliable and affordable power saves lives. The corollary being that not having electricity as and when it’s needed, puts lives at risk.

With America’s abundant coal, gas and nuclear power generation capacity, for Americans, any such risk is wholly unnecessary.

Terry M Jarret of Jefferson City, Missouri is an energy attorney and consultant who has served on both the National Association of Regulatory Utility Commissioners and the Missouri Public Service Commission, and he contributes regularly to LeadingLightEnergy.com.

Terry gets to grip with the serious business of keeping the power on, and people alive, in this piece he penned for the News Tribune.

Terry M. Jarrett of Jefferson City, MO is an energy attorney and consultant who has served on both the National Association of Regulatory Utility Commissioners and the Missouri Public Service Commission, and he contributes regularly to LeadingLightEnergy.com. He wrote this for the News Tribune.

National View: Deep freeze a chilling reminder we still need coal, nuclear energy
News Tribune
Terry Jarrett
14 February 2019

The stunning cold that swept the northern United States recently — and slammed Minnesota and the Midwest, in particular — was eye-opening for many Americans. It reminded us just how dependent we are on modern infrastructure for our survival. Nature is not always kind, and the depth of these Arctic conditions surprised some who were unprepared for life-threatening conditions.

The legacy of the 2019 deep freeze may be that it revealed unexpected gaps in America’s power grid — and highlighted the work ahead for states hoping to keep electricity flowing under challenging circumstances. Simply put, millions of Americans learned just how important “baseload power” is in their daily lives.

Temperatures in Chicago plummeted to as low as minus-21. In Minnesota, Minneapolis saw minus-28 and Cotton dropped to minus-56, a tie for the fifth-coldest temperature in state history.

Such painful cold can deliver unexpected consequences. Xcel Energy, which supplies gas and electricity throughout many Midwestern states, issued an advisory to residents in central Minnesota to lower their thermostats to 60 degrees or less and to avoid using natural-gas appliances like water heaters. Xcel subsequently requested customers lower their thermostats further, to 55 degrees. The utility explained that extreme weather conditions had resulted in a “significant” strain on their natural gas system.

In Detroit, where temperatures hit a record minus-11 on Jan. 30, DTE Energy Co. asked customers to reduce electricity usage. Across parts of Michigan, Consumers Energy called for customers to reduce natural-gas usage. The company even requested that General Motors suspend work at several manufacturing plants.

In the Chicago area, wind turbines were shut down. Under such frigid conditions, turbine blades can crack, and gearboxes can simply seize up. As overall wind conditions slackened in the cold, heavy air, utilities faced with escalating demand switched to coal and natural gas. Bloomberg News reported that coal power plants in the region were forced to ramp up, “temporarily supplying about half the electricity needs in the two grids that serve most of the affected region — the Southwest Power Pool and Midcontinent Independent System Operator.”

These were life-threatening problems. And implicit in such conditions is the obligation to take action that can safeguard sturdy, reliable power before the next, unexpected lurch of dangerous weather comes along.

America is undoubtedly at a crossroads right now, with wind and solar advocates urging a large-scale transition to renewable energy. And the proliferation of domestic natural-gas production already has initiated a shift in the nation’s electricity-generation profile. But the recent deep freeze reminded us to hedge our bets enough to ensure that lives are protected.

This past Thanksgiving, the Northeastern U.S. saw a record cold snap that drained existing natural gas storage supply and raised gas prices. Pipeline limitations forced New England to import shipments of liquefied natural gas from Russia. And the wind turbines and solar panels that currently provide up to 7.6 percent of America’s electricity will always require back-up support when the wind doesn’t blow and the sun doesn’t shine.

What the nation needs to consider is that hasty efforts to keep shutting down coal and nuclear plants could make the U.S. vulnerable during the next perfect storm. Americans consume nearly 4 trillion kilowatt hours of electricity each year, with half of that coming from coal and nuclear. It is these coal and nuclear plants that keep churning out foundational baseload power and can spin up to maximum output when dangerous winter conditions emerge.

Any talk of America’s future energy profile must include provisions to ensure that baseload power needs can always be met. This winter’s deep freeze showed it would be foolhardy not to preserve coal and nuclear as available options.

Because lives will always be at stake, America must plan for an “all-of-the-above” energy mix in the coming years.
News Tribune

7 thoughts on “Fatal Attraction: America’s Big Freeze Reveals Deadly Danger of Unreliable Renewables

  1. Center of the American Experiment just released their newest report on Minnesota’s fascination with unreliable renewables: ‘Doubling Down on Failure’. It is a follow-up to their earlier report ‘The High Cost of Failure’. But, of course, since Minnesota’s Governor Tim Walz just announced 100% “carbon-free”, they could have done ‘Quadrupling Down on Failure”. Here is the link: https://www.americanexperiment.org/reports-books/doubling-failure-50-percent-2030-renewable-energy-standard-cost-minnesota-80-2-billion/

  2. That is what we have been waiting for due to the sunspots has been reducing in Sun cycle 26.

  3. The sheer sense of fear and anxiety that is recklessly being broadcast to the public about Climate Change, and the 12 year countdown to catastrophe, is now very reminiscent of the panic generated in the lead up to the ‘Millennium Bug’, or Y2K. But is far worse.


    “The Y2K problem is the electronic equivalent of the El Niño and there will be nasty surprises around the globe. — John Hamre, United States Deputy Secretary of Defense”


    Are we currently experiencing the Millennium Bug 2.0?

    Or should that be ‘Millennial’ Bug 2.0!

  4. I posted on this issue for New York solar here: https://wp.me/p8hgeb-9K

    Short answer – during the peak load period last winter the capacity factor for an upstate solar farm would be 7% at the same time New York State wants to convert home heating from fossil fuels to electricity.

    As you said “Surely stupidity isn’t the only reason for increasingly putting human (and other) lives at risk. Is anyone starting to think there’s a bit more to the RE agenda than meets the eye?”

  5. Last year in Queensland, AU alone there were over 40,000 fire service call outs to all manner of fires.
    This year is off to a record start of carbon dioxide release that the climate changers don’t want to talk about – maybe there should be a Guinness World Record for fires & freezes.

    Nobody seems to want to talk about how much arable land is being taken out of agricultural production by hectares of solar arrays – I refuse to call them farms as they grow nothing other than land denial.
    A video about Morocco showed wind turbines with missing blades but didn’t mention them, just how wonderful RE was: solar in the desert and turbines on the mountains, and a great lack of water.

    ‘Man-made’ global warming raises an interesting question for insurance; does it mean there’s no longer ‘natural’ occurrences or ‘acts of God’?

    Surely stupidity isn’t the only reason for increasingly putting human (and other) lives at risk.
    Is anyone starting to think there’s a bit more to the RE agenda than meets the eye?

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