Winter Storm Uri 5+ weeks ago knocked out power, heat & water to millions of Texans, including me.

I installed several technologies at home to make it resilient. I thought you be interested to hear how they performed through the energy crisis. [THREAD]

Image: @weatherchannel
B/c of the 2011 TX freeze that knocked out power I installed several solutions to make my house robust against shortages:

1) super-efficient windows, insulation, etc.
2) electric heat pumps
3) natgas backup to the central heat pump in case the power went out
4) large solar array
#1 was very helpful, but items #2, 3 and 4 all failed.

This chart shows the last three months of consumption (in red) and solar panel generation (in green) for my house.
As cold weather approached, household electricity consumption increased significantly. However, instead of increasing steadily, demand for my heat pump was very choppy. I only had 5 minutes of heating per hour. Why is this?

Because the city turned the heat pump on & off.
My house is enrolled in the Power Partners program, which lets @austinenegy cycle my A/C on/off in the summer for a few minutes at a time to reduce peak demand. Across all the city’s air conditioners, it saves 50+ MW of peak demand, which is significant.…
I had no idea that they would also use that ability to cycle my heat pump (essentially a reversed A/C) on/off. In the summer they might turn off my A/C a few mins/hour. But the depth of the energy crisis was so bad the situation was reversed: I only had heat a few mins/hour.
Our insulation helped a lot…but still, the house got really cold.

You can see that the solar generation dropped significantly from cloud cover and from snowfall. Snow on solar panels melts faster than on roads, but the panels were basically out of commission on February 15th.
We finally lost power that Wednesday the 17th.

The power outage lasted 2.5 days, which is really visible on the chart (👆). My wife and I read by candlelight.

Unfortunately, solar panels don’t work when the power is out unless the home has a battery (for safety reasons: if solar panels send power back onto the wires, it can electrocute line workers making repairs). I don’t have a battery so my house lost power despite the solar panels.
But what about the gas backup for my heating system?

The gas backup (and gas water heater) have electronic controls, ignition, blower, etc. When the power went out, I also lost my gas heat.

The house got even colder. Not quite life-threatening, but we were headed that way.
Overall, despite significant investments in heat pumps, solar panels and gas backup, my house was still very vulnerable.

Someone (me!) who has the interest, relevant knowledge & means to make a home more robust can still fail to identify vulnerabilities looming in the system.
So what do I do next?

Install a battery that is at least big enough to power the controls, blower & ignition for the gas backup heating system.

If I get a big battery it can run the compressor for the electric heat pump and A/C.

The quest for resilience isn't over! [END]
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More from @MichaelEWebber

12 Mar
A year ago today my wife @JuliaCWebber and I evacuated France. Our daughter called us at 2:30 am Paris to say President Trump was shutting down the borders. We got up, packed a duffel bag for each of us & our 14 yo son, shut down the house and left for the airport. It was scary.
The Trump Administration did not coordinate with airlines, airports, or border officials. It was mayhem. It didn't have to be.

It was unnecessary. Trump's announcement misrepresented basic facts about his policies, which made evacuations of returning expatriates more expensive and difficult than they needed to be.

Read 12 tweets
27 Feb
I keep thinking about the interdependencies of the gas and power networks in Texas.

The natural gas system depends (partly) on power.

The power system depends (heavily) on natural gas.

This creates a risk of cascading failures from one to the other. [THREAD]
These two interdependent have two asymmetries, both of which benefit gas:

1) The power system has a price cap of $9000/MWh for generators in the wholesale market.

The gas system does not have a cap.
2) The power system is isolated in Texas and cannot lean on neighbors for help.

The gas system connects to national and international markets. Out-of-state providers can help fill in shortfalls of gas.
Read 8 tweets
23 Feb
Please consider this a public thank-you letter to @AustinEnergy for working around the clock to get the power back on and prevent an even bigger catastrophe.

People are mad. But believe me, it could have been worse. Their good decisions staved off a complete disaster. [THREAD]
In May 2020 I wrote for @ASMEdotorg that I considered utility workers to be society’s hidden heroes – after the Texas energy crisis I believe that is even more true today than before.…
I know people are frustrated with the power outages-- I lost power for 2.5 days – I know what it was like.

Read 10 tweets
22 Feb
The Texas Energy Crisis makes me think of thermal energy storage for system resilience.

Can storage reduce electricity consumption? An equation for the grid-wide efficiency impact of using cooling thermal energy storage for load shifting… via @IOPscience
With a battery for energy storage it's an energy loser: 90% charging efficiency & 90% discharging efficiency gives 81% round-trip efficiency.

But with thermal storage, the system efficiency can actually be greater than 100% compared w/ baseline. How is that possible?
Power plants, transmission lines and A/Cs all have lower efficiency when it's hot. By using thermal storage we can charge the system (such as making ice or chilling water) at night when it's cooler and when those systems have higher performance.
Read 4 tweets
7 Feb
I know there’s a lot of #EnergyTwitter discussion about electric heating as part of a society-wide decarbonization strategy. Let me share with you some details about how this might look in France.

In brief: it will be hard to electrify heating in France. [THREAD]
Here is the rate of energy use across all sectors for the entire country of France in a year with typical weather. The peak demand occurs in the evening of January or February and is driven primarily by the need to heat buildings.
The peak demand of ~280 GW in France is met by:

~85 GW electricity
~105 GW gas
~50 GW biomass & district heating/cooling
~45 GW of oil/coal

The lowest demand in the summer holidays is ¼ of peak demand.
Read 10 tweets
7 Feb
I teach Entrepreneurship @UTAustin w/ @ATI_UT so I think about biz models.

Viral videos have their own biz model but I never knew the details until I had my own. My video of Paris traffic had ~5M views and I earned $495.01 from news orgs to show it.

I earned ~$0.0001/view, which is a good data point to have. Generally speaking for other social media platforms of content creators I estimate the monetizable value to be ~$0.01 to $0.10 per follower/subscriber, 2-3 orders of magnitude higher than a random one-off viral video.
I also discovered there is an entire cottage industry of media companies that reach out to owners of viral videos to help manage licenses for a cut of the fees. As my video was taking off about a half dozen companies DM'ed me saying they can handle licenses for a cut of the fees.
Read 8 tweets

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