Texas Power Shortage

jetsam

Minister of Fire
Dec 12, 2015
5,038
Long Island, NY
youtu.be
A naval boiler runs at 500F, under pressure. Now tell me how that moving air theory works again?
I interviewed a guy for a job yesterday... he was a retired engineer who had done a career in power plants.

He said that in the summer the air temp on the floor runs 120-150 degrees, but in the
winter, small lines freezing was a thing that could happen because the floor is not just open to outside air, it has a tremendous volume of forced outside air hitting it. And he is talking about plants in New York where they expect cold winters!

I really wanted to ask him a million power plant questions, but I also had an interview to do... I hired him though, so I'll ask him later! ;lol


Good article on the whole situation over at ars technica.
 
Last edited:
  • Like
Reactions: sloeffle

peakbagger

Minister of Fire
Jul 11, 2008
5,993
Northern NH
Some trivia to confuse the Texas issue. Gas turbines put out more power the colder it is. In order to run at rated output in hot weather, they use very large air conditioners to cool the air going into them. This eats up some of their capacity to run the chillers. They will gladly run at very low temps and put out well over rated capacity the colder it gets. The limitation is the sizing of the fuel system the size of the electrical generator and the size of the transformers used to connect to the grid. The transfomers are usually air cooled and they gain some capacity to handle power at lower temps but at some point they get too small and the output has to be limited to the transformer capacity.
 

peakbagger

Minister of Fire
Jul 11, 2008
5,993
Northern NH
I interviewed a guy for a job yesterday... he was a retired engineer who had done a career in power plants.

He said that in the summer the air temp on the floor runs 120-150 degrees, but in the
winter, small lines freezing was a thing that could happen because the floor is not just open to outside air, it has a tremendous volume of forced outside air hitting it. And he is talking about plants in New York where they expect cold winters!
Yes, steam coils in air preheaters will freeze at low temps. They have be specially designed for the flow of cold air or it freezes the condensate before it can make it out of the unit. There are plenty of articles on the internet on how to avoid it but steam in general is a dying art for many designers so crappy designs get out there. When I worked in Northeast Wisconsin there were special "freeze resistant coils we could buy but usually the biggest change was you bought it from a salesman that made sure you plumbed it right.

We had a big boiler job up in NH at our mill where we dropping in a new 11 story boiler into a 9 story building. We had all sorts of steam traps on various systems and the contractors decided they were not worth collecting so they would route the remote ones condensate drain outside through a holes in the wall. There was rush to get the place running before winter but luckily no one got speared by the icicles that would form. An icicle dropping 9 to 10 stories will punch a hole through a car roof and a person. We had to rush around and reroute every condensate drain back into the building before it got really cold and as long as it ran, the floor was wet in a lot of spots.

It was rebuilt into a biomass boiler with a big cooling tower located way too close to the building and a large steel frame structure, When the wind blows, the water vapor from the cooling tower condenses on the structural frame and freezes into icicles. They have to cordon off a large area around that structure all winter to keep anyone from getting killed by falling ice. Most of this is just experience and as people retire that knowledge is lost.
 

ABMax24

Minister of Fire
I'm well aware of the politics behind it but am concerned about the economic effects it will have , especially on the poor.
The rich get richer, the poor will get poorer, you know, the American Dream.


The reality is there are millions of Americans a mere hundred dollars a month away from going broke. Increasing any of their living costs threatens their survival, or at least threatens to throw them out on the streets, such as those caused by artificially increased fuel prices. I'm sure the government will give out rebates or credits for electric cars, or solar panels, or buying renewable energy, non of which the poorest Americans could afford, with or without the rebate. Of course the US Federal Reserve is dumping trillions into the US economy, but as a Canadian I receive more of this money by investing a small amount in the stock market than the poorest of Americans do in the form of stimulus checks.

Keystone was partially killed by US oil companies. America buys heavy Canadian crude (WCS) at a discount due to Canada's lack of access to other markets, allowing Keystone to be built would have increased the value of WCS and resulted in lost profits from US refineries processing Canadian crude.

Canada is building a pipeline to the west, TMX, that will ship our crude to Asian markets. Successive US administrations have presented major challenges to trade between our 2 nations, unfortunately this has forced Canada to shop it's resources around elsewhere.
 

Brian26

Minister of Fire
Sep 20, 2013
574
Branford, CT
This is pretty cool and hopefully more hybrid vehicles offer it. The new Ford F150 hybrid has a 7.2 kw built in generator and a lot of people have been using it in Texas. People report running for 3 days straight and only using a 1/4 tank of gas. It appears to cycle the gas engine to recharge the batteries.

732c87f0-7215-11eb-9ffb-6c551dfb6457.jpeg
 

SpaceBus

Minister of Fire
Nov 18, 2018
5,371
Downeast Maine
This is pretty cool and hopefully more hybrid vehicles offer it. The new Ford F150 hybrid has a 7.2 kw built in generator and a lot of people have been using it in Texas. People report running for 3 days straight and only using a 1/4 tank of gas. It appears to cycle the gas engine to recharge the batteries.

View attachment 274904
That's not bad usage, maybe 2 gallons of gas a day?
 

woodgeek

Minister of Fire
Jan 27, 2008
4,311
SE PA
This is pretty cool and hopefully more hybrid vehicles offer it. The new Ford F150 hybrid has a 7.2 kw built in generator and a lot of people have been using it in Texas. People report running for 3 days straight and only using a 1/4 tank of gas. It appears to cycle the gas engine to recharge the batteries.

View attachment 274904
Absolutely. I have been using a $300 inverter hooked up to my 2015 Chevy Volt (and earlier EVs) to backfeed my house for the last 5 years. Every EV has 12V powered accessories, usually powered by a 1500 W DC-DC supply. My system can do 1200 W 120V sine wave AC forever, 1500W for 10 minutes and 1 second surge to 3 kW. This is enough to run my fridge, my stove fans, my lights, my wifi and my electronics. I can forget that I don't have power.

My house's 120V loads only run 300-400W on average, which the Volt provides from the traction battery. It cycles the engine on for a minute every 5-10 minutes, once the traction battery is depleted. This requires about a gallon of gas per day. The 8 gallon tank will last a week.

A hybrid EV is way nicer than a gas generator.... its quiet, has pollution controls, and bc the engine cycles off it has low standby gas consumption at low loads. Perfect!
 

peakbagger

Minister of Fire
Jul 11, 2008
5,993
Northern NH
Floating around on the web are folks that buy surplus UPS units and plug directly into the main power bus on a Prius. They get some remarkable run time off the combination.
 

woodgeek

Minister of Fire
Jan 27, 2008
4,311
SE PA
Floating around on the web are folks that buy surplus UPS units and plug directly into the main power bus on a Prius. They get some remarkable run time off the combination.
Agreed. Running off the 12V bus is limiting (1200W continuous out for a 80% eff inverter), but soooo much safer. Think about shorting out a 12V car battery....scary! Now think about shorting out a 1000 lb lithium ion battery wired to put out 400VDC and few hundred amps continuously! Apocalyptic!

For the record, I was doing house wiring when I was in grade school, have worked around 50 kV lab power supplies in labs in accelerators for years, etc. I will NOT tap into an EV traction battery. No thank you.
 

begreen

Mooderator
Staff member
Nov 18, 2005
86,454
South Puget Sound, WA
Floating around on the web are folks that buy surplus UPS units and plug directly into the main power bus on a Prius. They get some remarkable run time off the combination.
I gave a 240v UPS to someone with a Prius after we sold ours and got the Volt. I never got around to doing the conversion, but he was tickled pink and eager to try it out. Like you, messing with the traction battery gave me pause even though I too have worked with electrics for a long time (dad was a licensed electrical contractor for 27 yrs. among other things.)

Woodgeek, what inverter did you end up getting?
 

NoGoodAtScreenNames

Feeling the Heat
Sep 16, 2015
362
Massachusetts
Holy crap - some people in TX on variable rate plans who are lucky enough to have power are paying $9 /kwh. People who went on these plans to save a few bucks and may be the ones least likely to afford an electricity bill in the thousands of dollars. All this because the political and business leaders wanted to go cheap on protecting the grid from the cold like the rest of the country does.



Then, on top of all of that you have stories like this where a kid froze to death without power. This is a pure total failure of leadership and regular people are going to bear the brunt of it.

 
  • Like
  • Sad
Reactions: Zombie and sloeffle

maple1

Minister of Fire
Sep 15, 2011
10,690
Nova Scotia
Wife's cousin is in Houston. Haven't heard the last couple of days but they were without power for 2 days then into 2 hours on 3 off. They had 2 other families move in with them because they had a fireplace. She's from up here and he's from Minnesota so they are pretty capable when it comes to dealing with the cold. But the millions that have no idea - lots of horror stories yet to come out, just sad.
 

tlc1976

Minister of Fire
Oct 7, 2012
665
Northwest Lower Michigan
We will see in a couple weeks how much more Covid has spread as a result of people being forced to huddle up with other households to survive. Sad.
 

semipro

Minister of Fire
Jan 12, 2009
3,958
SW Virginia
Floating around on the web are folks that buy surplus UPS units and plug directly into the main power bus on a Prius. They get some remarkable run time off the combination.
As I've mentioned here before, I bought a Toyota Highlander Hybrid with the intent of doing this. The challenge has been finding a reasonably priced UPS with the required battery input voltage (288 VDC nominal) and a sufficient duty cycle, the latter being most restrictive.

Now that we have solar PV with storage at our house, with an inverter that has dual 5000 watt, 150-425 VDC inputs I keep wondering why I can't reroute one of those inverter inputs to the Highlander motive battery during a period of extended low solar production. As someone noted already, you just leave the vehicle running and the engine will start/stop as needed to keep the motive battery pack charged.
 
Last edited:

peakbagger

Minister of Fire
Jul 11, 2008
5,993
Northern NH
The key with any crisis like this is deflect the blame
As I've mentioned here before, I bought a Toyota Highlander Hybrid with the intent of doing this. The challenge has been finding a reasonably priced UPS with the required battery input voltage (288 VDC nominal) and a sufficient duty cycle, the latter being most restrictive.

Now that we have solar PV with storage at our house, with an inverter that has dual 5000 watt, 150-425 VDC inputs I keep wondering why I can't reroute one of those inverter inputs to the Highlander motive battery during a period of extended low solar production. As someone noted already, you just leave the vehicle running and the engine will start/stop as needed to keep the motive battery pack charged.
Technically if can be done but its a low risk versus reward situation for Toyota. The amperage being messed with are significant and lithium batteries are very finicky, look at them wrong and they melt into puddle along with the vehicle. Therefore Toyota is decidely reluctant to allow a exterior connection. T think the Prius experimenters still have an issue that pulling power out of the hybrid battery isnt a problem but putting external power into it means interfacing with the factory BMS.

There are attempts to put in industry standards to integrate vehicle batteries with the power system but the money is in getting a standard to connect vehicle batteries into the grid so they can be used for grid support.
 
  • Like
Reactions: sloeffle

woodgeek

Minister of Fire
Jan 27, 2008
4,311
SE PA
Woodgeek, what inverter did you end up getting?
I got a 'Tigerclaw' Chinese 1500W sine wave. No longer available, but many similar are on Amazon for $200. You need to hook it up with DC wiring and battery clamps that are rated for 120A continuous. I also put a 150A fuse in-line and a surge suppressor and a plug in power meter on the output. Some of these inverters put out some RFI, so I got a cheap suppressor rated for good RFI rejection.

That gear put me closer to $300 for the whole works.

I have an interlocked 4 pin generator plug for backfeeding, and wired a adapter that ties the two 120V branches together and drives them in phase off the inverter. All 240V appliances thus are off automatically, but I also flip their breakers to be on the safe side.
 

semipro

Minister of Fire
Jan 12, 2009
3,958
SW Virginia
The key with any crisis like this is deflect the blame


Technically if can be done but its a low risk versus reward situation for Toyota. The amperage being messed with are significant and lithium batteries are very finicky, look at them wrong and they melt into puddle along with the vehicle. Therefore Toyota is decidely reluctant to allow a exterior connection. T think the Prius experimenters still have an issue that pulling power out of the hybrid battery isnt a problem but putting external power into it means interfacing with the factory BMS.

There are attempts to put in industry standards to integrate vehicle batteries with the power system but the money is in getting a standard to connect vehicle batteries into the grid so they can be used for grid support.
Thanks. I was hoping you'd comment.
The motive battery in our 2006 Highlander is actually a NiMH unit. I only plan to pull power from the battery, only the engine would charge it. I'd only do this when the grid is down and solar insolation is insufficient.
I've read that Toyota is protective of its batteries and maintains the charge within a relatively narrow range of min/max voltage. That shouldn't change under the operation I'd be doing.
Point well taken on Lithium chemistry batteries. The feedback I've gotten here and elsewhere led to my decision to go with Lithium Iron Phosphate batteries for our 20 kWh of PV storage rather than using salvaged Chevy Volt batteries as I'd originally planned.
 

semipro

Minister of Fire
Jan 12, 2009
3,958
SW Virginia
There are attempts to put in industry standards to integrate vehicle batteries with the power system but the money is in getting a standard to connect vehicle batteries into the grid so they can be used for grid support.
And, as @woodgeek mentioned earlier, the idea of V2G for grid storage may not work well due to a variety of issues.
I agree with that but do see opportunities for V2MicroG connection where the EV parked in your driveway can provide some backup power to the house during grid outages, basically a Powerwall in your driveway.
 

woodgeek

Minister of Fire
Jan 27, 2008
4,311
SE PA
And, as @woodgeek mentioned earlier, the idea of V2G for grid storage may not work well due to a variety of issues.
I agree with that but do see opportunities for V2MicroG connection where the EV parked in your driveway can provide some backup power to the house during grid outages, basically a Powerwall in your driveway.
Agree. Nissan sold a number of systems for the LEAF in Japan, but not to my knowledge in the US. As for tapping the traction DC, the obv way to do it is through the Level 3 charging port, which is interlocked for safety until the HV contacts are made. I was lucky that 1200W was sufficient for my needs.
 

DBoon

Minister of Fire
Jan 14, 2009
1,233
Central NY
Increasing any of their living costs threatens their survival, or at least threatens to throw them out on the streets, such as those caused by artificially increased fuel prices.
I will not argue that the US has done a good job in providing for the 50% of its citizens who live on the edge where literally a $500 unforeseen bill is financially catastrophic. Most of these 50% are hard-working people who struggle to live in a system that doesn't provide much opportunity for them to improve their situation, for a lot of different reasons.

Having said that, a government that artificially keeps power prices too low by improper planning, e.g.:
  1. TX governor appointing all of ERCOT's oversight members, none of whom live in TX
  2. ERCOT not ensuring that utilities provide power reliable electric power in conditions that should/could have been foreseen
  3. ERCOT not requiring utilities to have adequate backup generation in place for unforeseen demand
  4. ERCOT not having any interconnections with neighboring regions to provide grid stability/reliability during unforeseen power issues.
  5. Utilities/power producers not voluntarily doing things such as winterizing their plants that would have mitigated the loss of generation capability because it would hurt their profits.
So, if you want some of the cheapest electricity in the country, you might do those five things. But then your citizens have to deal with massive power outages, damage to their personal property that might far exceed their savings from cheaper electricity, and perhaps even death. It doesn't seem like the greatest trade to me, but it is the natural result of too much of an emphasis on a free-market approach in a case where free-markets generally do a pretty bad job of pricing for something important (e.g., reliability).

The good citizens of Texas should complain at the ballot box at the next election. If they don't, they deserve the result they get. I am sure many of them don't agree with Rick Perry that they would rather go without power for 3 days than have the Federal Government mandate some extra cost for improved reliability.

There are ways to cushion the impact of slightly higher electricity rates for those least able to afford them. And TX electricity prices of about 8.5 cents/kWh need not become that much more expensive to ensure the reliability that people in TX deserve.

We are not a third-world country, but sometimes some governments seem to think like one.
 

SpaceBus

Minister of Fire
Nov 18, 2018
5,371
Downeast Maine
I'm pretty much sold on a PHEV for our next vehicle purchase.
 

ABMax24

Minister of Fire
I will not argue that the US has done a good job in providing for the 50% of its citizens who live on the edge where literally a $500 unforeseen bill is financially catastrophic. Most of these 50% are hard-working people who struggle to live in a system that doesn't provide much opportunity for them to improve their situation, for a lot of different reasons.

Having said that, a government that artificially keeps power prices too low by improper planning, e.g.:
  1. TX governor appointing all of ERCOT's oversight members, none of whom live in TX
  2. ERCOT not ensuring that utilities provide power reliable electric power in conditions that should/could have been foreseen
  3. ERCOT not requiring utilities to have adequate backup generation in place for unforeseen demand
  4. ERCOT not having any interconnections with neighboring regions to provide grid stability/reliability during unforeseen power issues.
  5. Utilities/power producers not voluntarily doing things such as winterizing their plants that would have mitigated the loss of generation capability because it would hurt their profits.
So, if you want some of the cheapest electricity in the country, you might do those five things. But then your citizens have to deal with massive power outages, damage to their personal property that might far exceed their savings from cheaper electricity, and perhaps even death. It doesn't seem like the greatest trade to me, but it is the natural result of too much of an emphasis on a free-market approach in a case where free-markets generally do a pretty bad job of pricing for something important (e.g., reliability).

The good citizens of Texas should complain at the ballot box at the next election. If they don't, they deserve the result they get. I am sure many of them don't agree with Rick Perry that they would rather go without power for 3 days than have the Federal Government mandate some extra cost for improved reliability.

There are ways to cushion the impact of slightly higher electricity rates for those least able to afford them. And TX electricity prices of about 8.5 cents/kWh need not become that much more expensive to ensure the reliability that people in TX deserve.

We are not a third-world country, but sometimes some governments seem to think like one.
My point was relating more to Keystone than what's happening in Texas right now.

That being said here in Alberta we have a system similar to what Texas has with ERCOT. Ours is called AESO, and pricing is based on supply/demand. We, like Texas, have small interconnects to neighboring provinces and Montana, but for the most part are self-sufficient. Like ERCOT, live data is available on the AESO website (ets.aeso.ca) showing demand, which generators are running, how much they are producing, and supply surplus or deficits.

We do have differences though, our pool price maxes out at $999.99/mwh, 10% of what Texas is. There are also very stringent requirements about what the generator must do to ensure reliable operation, and can be forced, at the request of AESO, to start up and generate electricity at any given time.

I believe your thinking is flawed, and is a knee jerk reaction to these blackouts. The supply/demand market is a viable option, and keeps government and tax payer dollars out of the energy market, allowing consumers to bear the true cost of the energy consumed. Our grid is reliable, and the supply and demand based market we have can, and does truly demonstrate that renewables can be built without subsidies and still be profitable. Our average pool price for 2020 was 4.5 cents/kwh, much below Texas (especially considering this is in CAD), my lights never went off last year, relating cheap electricity to unreliable electricity is a poor correlation. Relating government involvement to unreliability fits much better.

I will agree that the entire US political system is flawed, the government works for the highest bidder or highest paying lobbyist, not the citizens that voted them in. Makes me sad to see an entire country divided by political ideals, when the politicians seem to have a hard time giving a moments thought to the people they claim to represent.

What needs to happen is the Texas government needs to setup arms length regulators to oversee the electrical sector. AESO is like this, it's a not-for-profit organization whose mandate is to ensure the reliability and cost effectiveness of the electrical grid, no government intervention required. Those interested might want to take a read through this, https://www.aeso.ca/aeso/about-the-aeso/#:~:text=Mission,openly competitive market for electricity.
 
Last edited:

Seasoned Oak

Minister of Fire
Oct 17, 2008
7,196
Eastern Central PA
This is pretty cool and hopefully more hybrid vehicles offer it. The new Ford F150 hybrid has a 7.2 kw built in generator and a lot of people have been using it in Texas. People report running for 3 days straight and only using a 1/4 tank of gas. It appears to cycle the gas engine to recharge the batteries.

View attachment 274904
Id be watching that like a hawk. Since i has to stay outside for the exhaust. Great advertising for that option for Ford though.
 

DuaeGuttae

Minister of Fire
Oct 26, 2016
760
Texas
Let me know if you need any tips for picking out standing dead trees to harvest for immediate burning, I've picked up some experience over the years. ;em
The trees make it easy down here since the vast majority are evergreen. I doubt I'd ever use sago palms as firewood, but I'm wondering if I'm going to have some dead ones after this week since the leaves had all turned brown. They may grow back from the centers, but it got cold enough to have killed them. We'll see.

I was a bit shocked when I walked into our barn (woodshed) this afternoon and saw one lone piece of wood on our "immediate burning" rack. We had other wood in our back room of the barn (the kiln) and some in the house, but I hadn't realized that we had used so much. (My husband had been doing the wood hauling.) We spent the afternoon sawing up a good portion of forty-two cedar trees that we had cleared from our side yard last March. They were all pretty small (most of you guys wouldn't bother with them, but it's what we have), and sitting for a year in Texas heat and drought has already seasoned some of it. We also cut up some dead oak branches that we had trimmed this winter. We'll pick and choose the driest stuff if we need it this winter, but now we have a good start on next year's wood.
 
  • Like
Reactions: jetsam