Saw a funny on Babylon Bee this morning…

It would be funnier without the knowledge of how many people really are without power in freakishly cold weather…

I heard about this yesterday evening from a friend on a private chat forum*:

We’re on rotating blackouts, about 2.5 hours at a time with no power. Texas lost 30,000 MW of generation, and is limping along with 45,000 MW when customers would take 70,000 MW if it were available.

Wow, I didn’t know. I get so wrapped up in my own little bubble here at the Gulch, but Texas has snow all the way down to the Gulf coast! Single-digit temps in places where they probably don’t bother much with home heating infrastructure. Not just overnight, either, it’s been going on for days – and then the whole frickin’ state loses half its grid power! Yike.

Ironically, one part of the no-doubt complex reason they’re on rolling blackouts is … wait for it … sustainable power!

This story is all over the place – I picked a lefty source just ’cause I’m an insensitive cis white male…

Frozen wind turbines contribute to rolling power blackouts across Texas

“We are experiencing record-breaking electric demand due to the extreme cold temperatures that have gripped Texas,” ERCOT President and CEO Bill Magness said in a news release. “At the same time, we are dealing with higher-than-normal generation outages due to frozen wind turbines and limited natural gas supplies available to generating units.”

Okay, I don’t know why I’m surprised that CNN posts lousy articles; despite the headline that article barely mentions frozen turbines. Here’s one that’s more informative…

Frozen wind turbines hamper Texas power output, state’s electric grid operator says

Wind farms across the state generate up to a combined 25,100 megawatts of energy. But unusually moist winter conditions in West Texas brought on by the weekend’s freezing rain and historically low temperatures have iced many of those wind turbines to a halt.

As of Sunday morning, those iced turbines comprise 12,000 megawatts of Texas’ installed wind generation capacity, although those West Texas turbines don’t typically spin to their full generation capacity this time of year.

My point is: Wind generators suck. Don’t depend on them.

No, no, that was Precaffeinated Joel talking. Don’t listen to him. My point is that shit happens no matter where you are. Hundreds of thousands of people in places like Houston and Austin are freezing in the dark, when they thought they had no reason to ever fear that happening. A set of freak circumstances comes along, nobody’s fault but there they are. In the end your security is your responsibility. So take responsibility for it. Believe me when I tell you that freezing in the dark turns the minutes to hours.

If people are laughing at you for your ridiculous prepping hobby, you’re at least facing in the right direction. It doesn’t take the end of the world as we know it to make a backup generator and a kerosene heater** and some extra food and a spare way to cook it suddenly pay for themselves. Plan to be the person who saves the day when it all goes wrong.

*kids, ask your parents.

**that you know how to use…

About Joel

You shouldn't ask these questions of a paranoid recluse, you know.
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17 Responses to Saw a funny on Babylon Bee this morning…

  1. bill says:

    Knock On Wood! So far we have electricity and we always hope storms won’t down the power lines out here in the woods. In East Texas it was -5 when I awoke early this morning (broke 100 yr record) . 1/2 inch of ice and 7 inches of snow on top of that outside. Water lines in the house are frozen the last 2 days. As a kid lived in Greeley CO, and later in the Navy faced some chilly weather too HA!! But in my advanced age it feels a little cool today. Expect another dose of the precipitation starting tomorrow. I don’t prep for such things as much as I should since our weather is typically moderate but still I try to have back-up plans here on my piece of earth. So far so good and wishing the best to all of you. It is a Wolf Brand Chili Day!

  2. Michael says:

    Great post Joel, I enjoyed the humor. Made me wonder if chickens on a super-sized hamster wheel would fit the description of a backup generator. Best of luck with the impending mud storm.

  3. Ben says:

    I would never call myself a prepper, but:

    If I lived in the frozen north, I wouldn’t be without some sort of portable fuel-powered heater, along with a few days of fuel. As for food, most of us live at the bitter end of the distribution chain. There are a zillion things (like a pandemic) that can disrupt our food supply & distribution.
    If you don’t keep 30 days of food (including your normal larder items) what are you thinking?

    This isn’t “Prepping”, these are just things that (imo) a rational and responsible person should do!

  4. I’m in Texas– barely– right against the New Mexico border. After a couple of days of single digits– both above and below zero– we’re back up to 20 degrees now. Still nothing compared to the temps I lived with in Colorado.

    Our power has been out twice today, an hour each time. “Rolling blackout” or a legitimate power outage? I don’t know and it doesn’t really matter. I’m glad I’m a prepper either way.

  5. Beans says:

    More and more, the ‘insanity’ of the Mormon’s “1 year of food” makes sense. Of course, since so many of us have downsized, it’s more like 1 month, but still the concept exists.

    Germany, by the way, which is touted as the Green Energy Capital of the World and as an ‘Example to us all’ is suffering the same fates as Texas. Snow-covered solar farms (deep snow…) and frozen turbines, and the roads are clogged so the bio-mass power plants (wood, from forests) can’t make it to the power plants.

  6. Mike says:

    Seeing how some people are not coping very well in Texas isn’t a big surprise. This situation could be anywhere and a majority won’t be able to cope. When people are told repeatedly that a system (power, supply chain etc.) will meet all their needs and is stable, a majority will believe it and not take any precautions.

  7. bmq215 says:

    Wonder how much of that is due to Texas’s semi-independent grid. As it stands, the US has three mostly-separate grids: Eastern, Western, and Texas. As I understand it this mostly dates back to a 1930’s disagreement with FDR’s move to federally regulate power distribution. Currently Texas can only transfer ~1,200 megawatts to/from other grids. Given that the state can use upwards of 60,000 megawatts on a high-draw day, they’re effectively on their own. Which works pretty well until you get hit by localized events and can’t draw from less affected parts…

  8. jabrwok says:

    It has little, if anything, to do with our independent grid, and far more to do with tree-hugging crystal-twittery “sustainable energy” subsidies which encourage the construction of bird-choppers and make reliable energy production economically non-competitive. Hopefully this little incident will drive enough outrage against the Legislature to get some of that nonsense eliminated. I’m not holding my breath on that though.

    Plan for this year: find out what kind of generator I need to power my house, how much fuel I’ll need to keep it running for at least a week, and how to hook it up. Then buy and install it. Not really looking forward to that, but the hassles of this week have been annoying. Fortunately not disastrous for me, but I’d rather not have to deal with it all again.

  9. Beans says:

    jabrwok – and plans for fortifying it against neighborhood assault. Because your generator will become ‘the neighbors’ just like your preps become the preps of ‘your friends and neighbors.’

    Look into a good noise reduction enclosure if its a padmount, else look at some really big chains and a poured slab with a decent ringbolt to lock said chains to, along with really good locks.

    Generator theft is a nasty thing down here in Florida during hurricane attacks. Nobody says there’s been killings over them, but there have been.

  10. Fred says:

    Live from east Texas it’s Fred [add reverberation effect]
    This cold snap (really more of an unending streak) has been epic. I’m a full time RV dweller. The self sustaining, energy conserving features have been nice. The insulation not so much. It’s been over ninety years since we had temperatures this cold. I’m late middle age, grew up here and nothing like this has happened in mine or my friends memories.
    But we’re doing alright. Everybody I know is someplace safe and warm. This will thaw out and melt away the first part of next week. We’ll have to fix some things and then it’ll be as normal as it can be. Thanks for writing about us. I appreciate your column. Your experience and writings are a regular party of my schedule.

  11. bill says:

    Shortly after yesterday’s post here the electricity went out & back on at 0915 this morning. Thank goodness for blankets & sleeping bag. Will I ever buy a generator or forever remain a dummy? Frozen precip @ present but in the 20’s (better than single digits). Could be worse. If forecast is correct water lines will thaw out Saturday.

  12. jabrwok says:

    Beans – thanks for the suggestion. That’s honestly something that hadn’t occurred to me (I’ve lived a sheltered life:-P ). I’ll probably build an enclosure.

    Anyone have any suggests for a good site to use for beginning research on finding a suitable generator? I’m very much a babe in the woods on this topic.

  13. Joel says:

    Whoah there. Be very careful about enclosing generators with air-cooled engines not designed for enclosures. Without air flow you can get nasty and surprisingly early valve problems due to overheating. If you’re going to build an enclosure you need to provide active air flow and lots of it. Hardly worth the trouble given that if you’re concerned with theft you shouldn’t leave it outside unattended and if you’re concerned with detection you shouldn’t be using it at all.

    I have a lot of experience with other people’s cheap generators and it left me with a policy of complete contempt for all small generators. When you need them they won’t work. Since acquiring a Honda eu2000i I’ve changed my tune about small generators. They’re not cheap but you can count on them to work after extended storage.

  14. jabrwok says:

    Thanks Joel. I’ve read your posts on your Honda, so I’ve thought it would be good if sufficient. I’ll have to do some research, and I won’t be getting anything for a while. I doubt there are any generators available right now anyway.

  15. Fred says:

    What Joel said! Air cooled engines need LOTS of air or they become air cooked engines. Level spot with plenty of air flow and sheltered from precipitation. Security? Heavy chain with a padlock to a metal object. Something thick and hard to cut.
    Test run your generator at least once a month for at least an hour. Put some kind of load on it during maintenance run. A couple of electric heaters or a bunch of lights. Gotta exercise it to keep it functional.

  16. B says:

    Yamaha gensests are as good as the Hondas/ Their Inverter setups (like Joel’s Honda) are the bomb. Stay away form Generac and other cheaper gensets if you think you are gonna need ’em in an emergency.

    Couple of points made here are good ones. Airflow, AIRflow, AIRFLOW! Cooling is important on ALL gnerators, but moreso on ones with aircooled engines.

    If yer gonna only use these gensets ocasionally, then run’em empty each time….best to run them empty on Coleman fuel or aviation fuel, as these don’t leave varnish in the carbs. But run them at least every six months under a load to keep them lubed and dried and corrosioin free.
    Oil changes are important on small gensets, be they air cooled or water cooled. Use synthetic oil and change it at the specified intervals. (filter too if they have one).
    As a rule, buy one size bigger genset than you think you need. Don’t however, get a HUGE genset, as these are fuel hogs.

  17. Ben says:

    What B said about Yamaha generators, we use them at work and they run like clocks. I own Hondas myself because I know where a Honda dealer is, so parts are available.

    On the other hand, I also own an off-brand Chinese EU-2000 clone, and have nothing bad to say about it.

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