During a Feb. 16 call with reporters, Dan Woodfin, a senior director at the Energy Reliability Council of Texas, which manages more than 90% of the state’s electric load, said most of the problem was with the gas-fired plants. “It appears that a lot of the generation that has gone offline today has been primarily due to issues on the natural gas system,” he said.
In fact, wind energy accounts for 10% of ERCOT’s winter power-generating capacity, said Daniel Cohan, an environmental engineering professor at Rice University. The rest depends primarily on thermal sources like natural gas, coal and nuclear. Newell said that the primary problem is that thermal power plants were not built to withstand the cold. They began to go offline just as freezing temperatures boosted the demand for heating, causing ERCOT to impose rolling blackouts. On Feb. 16, demand for power skyrocketed nearly 17 gigawatts past normal levels, while thermal generators lost more than 20 gigawatts of power, Newell said.
By contrast, wind power output during daily energy peaks was about 2 gigawatts below the 7 gigawatts expected.
“Compared to the loss of thermal power, wind is a sideshow here,” he told PolitiFact.