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JLeslie's avatar

Does Texas have trouble keeping the air conditioning on in the summer?

Asked by JLeslie (65412points) September 24th, 2023
17 responses
“Great Question” (2points)

A Texas friend of mine was saying how hot the summer was and that it was a strain on the utilities. She said even keeping her house cool was difficult. I remember the problem Texas had a few years ago in the winter with the electrical grid, but I was surprised to hear Texas was having summertime problems too, I hadn’t heard anything about it.

I know California has problems too. Both states have tons of sun, it had me wondering how much solar power is used.

I live in Florida, and it was plenty hot this summer, but as far as I know we don’t have any grid problems (maybe I just don’t know) and I have no problem keeping my house cool.

What states have their utilities strained regularly.

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elbanditoroso's avatar

Texas has big energy problems because they are not connected well with national grids. They made this decision some years ago to preserve the energy ‘independence’.

read this first

read this.

Basically, by not cooperating with others and going it alone, they have big problems providing electricity during cold winters and hot summers.

Tough shit for them. They made a political decision to do this, unwise as it was. Let ‘em suffer.

zenvelo's avatar

California has made an effort to reduce dependence on fossil fuel generated electricity and hydropower. We are in much better shape than we were 15 years ago.

The biggest reason for rolling blackouts in California these days is trying to avoid wildfires during wind events.

Blackwater_Park's avatar

Texas has the same base load problem other utilities have. Most places projected demand to decrease but the opposite happened. Also, most utilities are scuttling their aging, expensive, and dirty Coal-fired plants and replacing them with natural gas. 50% of power in California is Natural gas. Texas is around 40% Natural gas but still has a considerably large coal fleet ~30% where states like California have all but eliminated their coal-fired fleet and have replaced them with smaller, more distributed generation. This matters because aging coal plants have a tendency to “trip” offline as they are more complicated and supply a large portion of the base power. They’re like the old car that “just may leave you stranded.” With Texas islanded from the rest of the grid they can’t as easily “wheel” power from other utilities when they lose one or more. Other utilities can more easily phone a friend and “buy” power from their peers.
In case you are wondering: Solar in California is ~18% Texas it’s around 4% Solar only really works in a few key areas. I’s not our savior as the technology stands now.
In Florida Natural gas is close to 70% and all “renewables” account for less than 2%

Seeing a trend? Natural gas is supplying the bulk of this nation’s energy needs. A disruption in natural gas production and delivery would be catastrophic. It’s not that much better than coal for global warming issues. Also, some “renewables” such as biomass are bad in this respect too. Many of those plants end up burning petroleum-sourced refuse like garbage, fuel oil and even old tires. IMO, we can’t go nuclear fast enough.

elbanditoroso's avatar

@Blackwater_Park while all of what you wrote is true, it doesn’t erase the fact that Texas decided to go it alone and not share (and not receive) when supply was a problem. Solar, gas, coal, oil – none of the percentages really matter when you don’t have enough.

JLeslie's avatar

@elbanditoroso I remember reading about the wind power not being winterized during that horrible storm. Shortsighted for sure. Everyone criticized Texas for not cooperating with other states for energy, but at the same time Texas is the same size as many countries, and if the state had done it correctly, they probably should be able to be self sufficient. Why not have the option to ask other states for power though? I guess it would cost more to cooperate? Maybe I missed that in the article.

When Texas was blasted with that frigid winter storm, the states north of Texas were freezing too. My friends in Memphis were dealing with near zero temps for days.

I didn’t think Texas would have a problem in the summer though, so that is very interesting. I wonder if my state, Florida, was having any problems that I was unaware of. We have had millions of new residents move to the state in the last five years. The saving grace might be that a portion of them are not here in the summer.

Maybe I missed it, but is all energy in Texas supplied by the government? In Florida we have private companies supplying a lot of electricity, I don’t know the percentage. Currently I am supplied by a municipal government.

@Blackwater_Park The percentage of solar is shockingly low to me. Is that solar used by electric companies on solar farms? Does it include home solar?

Blackwater_Park's avatar

@JLeslie Grid-connected solar.

@elbanditoroso Yes, and they did this to avoid NERC oversight. While being disconnected makes the situation worse, being connected is not a magic bullet. Connected utilities face the same base load insufficiencies. When neighboring utilities can’t sell power, the problem remains. During that last bomb cyclone in December, Tennessee and parts of Alabama almost pulled a Texas.

JLeslie's avatar

@Blackwater_Park If Texas was connected to the interstate grid would it have to upgrade their utility system to winterize the wind turbines?

Blackwater_Park's avatar

No, power generation is functionally separate from power transmission for the most part. Problems can happen in isolated areas of generation but if we lose too much and the transmission system as a whole cannot keep up with demand, we can see systemic problems affecting large areas. Wind turbines are not a significant source of power, and they’re distributed. Keeping the transmission system balanced is a big job. The transmission grid has been referred to as “the largest machine in the world.”
Texas actually lost a portion of their gas plants that were not ready for the unusually cold weather. The same thing happened in Tennessee.

SnipSnip's avatar

The folks I know in Texas cool with swamp coolers. They use very little electricity. It’s basically a fan blowing air over water.

JLeslie's avatar

@Blackwater_Park What do you mean they lost a portion of their gas plants? Permanently?

Blackwater_Park's avatar

Just during the extreme cold. Some plant equipment was not ready for those temperature extremes.

seawulf575's avatar

Being connected to the grid with other states is not always the right thing and can lead to catastrophic power losses. The Northeast Blackout of 2003 is a perfect example. Heavy loads on aging transmission systems ended up with a domino effect that impacted from Ohio through NY up to Ontario Canada. Many states. The article says it was a “bug” in the First Energy control center that caused the problem. The real problem was a branch that took out some lines. That caused a substation to trip off-line. As other stations automatically started trying to pick up the load, the voltage in the lines started oscillating causing other stations to trip off line, eventually knocking out every bit of generation/transmission in that grid.

Tropical_Willie's avatar

Just remembering Cruz leaving Texas during the power outage.

JLeslie's avatar

I’m thinking home generators with underground tanks are probably big business in TX now. Assuming they don’t freeze up in very cold weather.

seawulf575's avatar

@JLeslie They can go to liquid natural gas or propane to avoid that freezing concern. The generator is more efficient and runs more quietly as well.

JLeslie's avatar

I think they are almost always propane. I was not worried about the fuel freezing, rather I didn’t know if the motor could freeze up.

seawulf575's avatar

Oil can thicken, but really for it to become a problem it has to get REALLY cold.

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