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Midwest Have No Surplus Power For Texas

February 18, 2021

By Paul Homewood



Midcontinent Independent System Operator (MISO)


It is claimed that Texas would be better off as part of a wider grid. The obvious one would be MISO, to which there is already a small interconnector.

However MISO has been having severe difficulties due to the cold spell:




As with Texas,  MISO is currently relying almost entirely on coal, gas and nuclear power. If they had been operating with a quarter of the power from wind, as Texas was last week,  I suspect that they would have been experiencing the same blackouts as Texas has had.




It is also not much bigger capacity wise than Texas, which has been running at around 60 GW this week. I suspect that any extra demand from Texas would quickly destabilise the MISO grid.


There is an interesting backstory to this.


The Natural Resources Defense Council says the Midwest energy grid operator known as MISO hasn’t planned enough interstate transmission lines.

MISO manages the system of utilities and transmission lines that operate in a wide region, from Manitoba, Canada to Louisiana.

John Moore is a senior attorney with the Council.  He says MISO for too long has approved numerous local transmission projects, but only a tiny number of interstate transmission lines – which operate much like interstate highways, moving energy, rather than vehicles,  from state to state.

He says MISO needs to plan more aggressively to meet the economic and environmental needs of the region.

"If we let business as usual take its course, then MISO may not be as bold as it needs to be," he says.

Moore says the lack of interstate transmission capacity is leaving clean energy projects on the table.

That includes 42 clean energy proposals in Michigan since 2016 that were unable to proceed, because the existing transmission system couldn’t handle them.


Installing more wind power inevitably means more long distance transmission capacity is needed. The unpredictability of wind power results in huge surpluses at times, which require transmitting to areas short of power. This could often be over distances of hundreds of miles.

Since that is the case, surely it is a cost that wind farms should be paying, something that would probably make them totally unviable economically.

  1. February 18, 2021 7:13 pm

    Expecting engineering sanity in today’s renewables-obsessed world is a forlorn hope.

  2. Gamecock permalink
    February 18, 2021 8:32 pm

    Grid design by a lawyer.

  3. David Calder permalink
    February 18, 2021 8:38 pm

    I have concluded wind power is a joke

  4. Nancy & John Hultquist permalink
    February 18, 2021 10:28 pm

    ” . . . more long distance transmission capacity is needed ”

    Piggy-backing on the existing system.
    Same is true with electric autos. Not only don’t the pay fuel taxes (yet!), but the charging stations are subsidized.
    EVs haven’t made sense since the invention of the electric starter.

    • Duker permalink
      February 19, 2021 2:23 am

      “more long distance transmission capacity is needed ”
      That also requires more reserve capacity set aside when using the long distance capacity….its a catch 22. In my country we have a long distance DC line but often its only used at 50-60% capacity during the peak because of lack of reserves and even then the frequency is stable because its hydro at one end but the other is largely wind.

  5. Phoenix44 permalink
    February 19, 2021 9:53 am

    How does cold from the North get to Texas without going via the states in between?

  6. Ray Sanders permalink
    February 19, 2021 10:12 am

    The situation is not just about the ability to supply REAL power rather the increasingly more critical issue is the generation (and absorption) of REACTIVE power. Wind turbines on their own cannot supply or control reactive power, The trend for battery storage at wind farms is most definitely NOT for ay form of long term storage rather it is for synthetic inertia, frequency management and supply/absorption of reactive power.
    To understand how important reactive power is consider the effect of inadequate control (especially with long distance transmission lines) as in the example of 2003

    Drax does a good description for the layman here
    View at
    And here is a research piece on the battery requirement.

    Click to access Reactive_power_compensation_and_Energy_storage_in_Wind_power_plant_final_report.pdf

    And finally I remember Leo Smith did a lengthy post on here regarding the subject (though sadly I can’t find it)

  7. February 19, 2021 12:02 pm

    Texas of all places. It was the energy capital of the nation not too long ago with their oil. To replace oil and gas with solar and wind is sheer folly as they are finding out.

    ALL places are subject to weather anomalies from time to time. It is foolishness to think otherwise.

    Meanwhile, West Virginia has gotten snow (the usual condition for February). My area probably has an accumulation of 6-8″ which is not unusual. Our temperatures are in the teens to ’30’s. We ARE capable of having temperatures dipping to 20 below zero, but that is rare and has not happened for a number of years.

    It is interesting that the major weather patterns have gone south through TX, LA, AL, etc. and to the north through the Midwest, curving up to New England. A number of years ago, New York state forbid natural gas pipelines to be placed across their state. Thus New England is cut off from any natural gas from West Virginia. These are the results…….

    • Mad Mike permalink
      February 19, 2021 3:01 pm

      When you say 20 degrees below zero are you talking Fahrenheit or Centigrade?

  8. It doesn't add up... permalink
    February 19, 2021 12:44 pm

    Some interesting observations from Roger Pielke:

  9. Tim the Coder permalink
    February 19, 2021 1:46 pm

    Latest on the Texas thing, is that those who retained some power during the crisis are finding their electricity bills are astronomical: $17,000 instead of a few hundred, for example.
    Enough to bankrupt householders, never mind small businesses.
    Aren’t smart meters wonderful?
    Hopefully, as this outrage over the outage news spreads, we will see a backlash against the things here too.

    • It doesn't add up... permalink
      February 19, 2021 2:28 pm

      I watched a segment on abc13 Houston where they were advising consumers how to report on instances of price gouging for items in short supply. Wholesale prices were capped at $9,000/MWh, so that sort of bill ($17k) is not going to be someone’s home where the consumption will be much lower. But clearly there are going to be questions on how the bill is met.

      • dave permalink
        February 19, 2021 5:58 pm

        “…not going to be someone’s home…”

        Not if the price to the consumer is fixed. But it has not got anything to do with low consumption. $9,000 per MWH is $9 per one bar fire for one hour!

      • Tim the Coder permalink
        February 19, 2021 8:20 pm

        That’s the wholesale price, dynamic retail price may be higher.
        And these are houses with electric heating, so 10kW or more, constantly.

      • It doesn't add up... permalink
        February 19, 2021 9:58 pm

        The “Home” is a highly variable energy unit – in the UK it ranges from about 3-4MWh/year as quoted in statistics (although some larger, all electric homes will consume more). 2MWh or more in just a few days is rather more than your average home.

  10. Eric Johnson permalink
    February 20, 2021 11:42 pm

    Let us through in EV’s that need preheating before venturing out. If our (in)famous EPA monitors electrical consumption of the refrigerator ice maker’s heater to prevent it from freezing, then the non- linear electrical load for battery warming needs to be included on the vehicle’s sticker price. We have assumed annual cost for appliances prominently displayed, so why not EV’s? And temp/range chart?

    Assuming of course that there’s “excess” electrical power available for charging your EV. Pli0⁰

    • Eric Johnson permalink
      February 20, 2021 11:44 pm

      “Let us be thourough…” post- op meds…

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