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Was There Another Reason for Electricity Shutdowns in California?

By Richard Trzupek | The Epoch Times | November 1, 2019

According to the official, widely reported story, Pacific Gas & Electric (PG&E) shut down substantial portions of its electric transmission system in northern California as a precautionary measure.

Citing high wind speeds they described as “historic,” the utility claims that if they didn’t turn off the grid, wind-caused damage to their infrastructure could start more wildfires in the area.

Perhaps that’s true. Perhaps. This tale presumes that the folks who designed and maintain PG&E’s transmission system are unaware of or ignored the need to design it to withstand severe weather events, and that the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission (FERC) and North American Electric Reliability Corporation (NERC) allowed the utility to do so.

Ignorance and incompetence happens, to be sure, but there’s much about this story that doesn’t smell right—and it’s disappointing that most journalists and elected officials are apparently accepting it without question. […]

… if badly designed and poorly maintained infrastructure is not the reason PG&E cut power to millions of Californians, what might have prompted them to do so? Could it be that PG&E’s heavy reliance on renewable energy means they don’t have the power to send when an “historic” weather event occurs?

Wind Speed Limits

The two most popular forms of renewable energy come with operating limitations. With solar power the constraint is obvious: the availability of sunlight. One does not generate solar power at night and energy generation drops off with increasing degrees of cloud cover during the day.

The main operating constraint of wind power is, of course, wind speed. At the low end of the scale, you need about a 6 or 7 mph wind to get a turbine moving. This is called the “cut-in speed.” To generate maximum power, about a 30 mph wind is typically required. But, if the wind speed is too high, the wind turbine will shut down. This is called the “cut-out speed,” and it’s about 55 mph for most modern wind turbines. […]

Now consider how California’s power generation profile has changed. According to Energy Information Administration data, the state generated 74.3 percent of its electricity from traditional sources—fossil fuels and nuclear—in 2001. Hydroelectric, geothermal, and biomass-generated power accounted for most of the remaining 25.7 percent, with wind and solar providing only 1.98 percent of the total.

By 2018, the state’s renewable portfolio had jumped to 43.8 percent of total generation, with wind and solar now accounting for 17.9 percent of total generation. That’s a lot of power to depend on from inherently unreliable sources. Thus, it would not be at all surprising to learn that PG&E didn’t stop delivering power out of fear of starting fires, but because it knew it wouldn’t have power to deliver once high winds shut down all those wind turbines. – Read full article

November 3, 2019 - Posted by | Deception, Economics | ,

4 Comments »

  1. Interesting and provocative. I went to the “Read full article” link, and there is no more text. I did read the single comment submitted, and it is provocative in its own right…but is it “right”? and why aren’t other countries, other utilities, latching onto “…Engines have been invented that need no fuel, using instead the huge untapped reservoir of heat in the atmosphere.” — and going for it?

    Comment by roberthstiver | November 3, 2019 | Reply

  2. If this is correct then why don’t they have to cut all power whenever the wind is too slow or fast. – fire or not. If they don’t have almost instant backup during a fire then where does the backup come the rest of the time.

    Comment by GGH | November 4, 2019 | Reply

    • In this event the high winds were sustained over a vast area of the west coast, Oregon and Washington have also installed a lot of wind turbines that were likely to be cut out.

      Nevada and Arizona may only have so much capacity to spare.

      Other reports have delved into the concurrent deficiencies of solar power under such conditions.

      Perhaps high voltage transmission lines are affected by such winds as well.

      I will be on the lookout for a report from a systems engineer.

      Comment by aletho | November 4, 2019 | Reply


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