What Did Harvey Do to the Wind Farms on the Texas Coast?

Downed power lines was the biggest problem. 

Oil-and-gas state Texas is by far the largest wind power producer among US states. With an installed capacity of 21,044 MW, and with 5,437 MW under construction as of the end of 2016, Texas is well ahead of Iowa, with 6,974 MW of capacity and 338 MW under construction, oil-and-gas state Oklahoma with 6,645 MW capacity and 1,609 MW under construction, and well, in 4th place green-energy state California… Just sayin’

During the windiest parts of the day, wind power typically supplies 20% of the power in Texas, according to grid operator Electric Reliability Council of Texas. Most of the wind farms are in West Texas, far away from the coast. During the hurricane, they continued operating normally. But a little over 2,000 MW of capacity is located in coastal areas, in hurricane country. So how did they fare?

According to a report by the Southern Alliance for Clean Energy (SACE):

At noontime on Friday, August 25th, the Texas coastal wind projects were operating at 95% output, an exceptionally high output level (also called a capacity factor).

As expected, several wind farms curtailed power production when wind speeds exceeded safety limits. Also, as local grid connections failed and power outages affected the entire region, wind farms remained offline until grid connection could be re-established.

Between 3-4 PM, as conditions deteriorated, wind power production dropped by approximately 800 megawatts, with a regional operation rate of about 47%.

Over the next three days, wind power production generally increased during the daytime, and declined at nighttime – similar to “normal” coastal wind power production levels. At no time did power production from all coastal wind farms reach zero.

This chart by SACE shows power generation for each of the four days, starting with August 25 (red line):

Only one facility – E.ON’s Papalote Creek Wind Farm complex, south of where the hurricane made landfall near Corpus Christi and then moved north – was knocked out of operation, according to Recharge, not because of damage to the wind turbines but because the electric transmission system to the facility was heavily damaged by the storm, and service to the grid was cut.

The 380 MW project experienced sustained winds of 90 mph with gusts over 100 mph, before losing its power connection. Recharge:

“The park was placed into an Owner’s stop and has remained down since the storm, since the underlying grid suffered extensive damage and power was lost to the facility,” E. ON says in a statement.

The turbines “appear to be in good shape,” E.ON said. “Once power is restored to the substation, our team will begin working to energize the turbines, once they have been determined acceptable to return to service.”

Another facility E.ON owns near the Gulf Coast is the 200 MW Magic Valley wind farm in Willacy County, toward the border with Mexico. Normal operations have resumed.

Duke Energy Renewables’ 402 MW Los Vientos I and II wind farms in Willacy County have not seen “any impact” and continue to operate normally.

Acciona Energy’s 93MW San Ramon Wind Farm and IKEA’s nearby 165MW Cameron Wind Farm, both in Cameron County near the border, didn’t experience any damage.

Avangrid Renewables’ Penascal I & II projects (404 MW) and Baffin wind farm (201 MW) in Kenedy County were already back into partial operation on Saturday and to near full capacity on Monday.

But there are other problems – the same problems that everyone is having in the devastated areas: An Avangrid spokesman told Recharge: “We still have a significant number of personnel who need to remain evacuated with their families due to area flooding…”

Pattern Energy Group Inc.’s 283 MW Gulf Wind facility on the Gulf Coast in Kenedy County, about 85 miles south from where the storm made landfall remained in operation.

“We were on the clean side of the storm,” John Martinez, Pattern’s director of operations, told Bloomberg. “The dirty side is the side coming right off the water.”

At winds above 55 mph, the turbines must be shut down. Gusts at the turbines reached up to 50 mph. So the turbines continued operating at sustained maximum production for much of the first 36 hours of the storm, Martinez said. Maximum power production usually occurs at wind speeds between 26 and 30 mph. Collecting a small part of the power of a hurricane.

Given the mayhem and devastation in the area, it’s good to see that one of the sectors that many people thought at risk survived largely unscathed.

How will Hurricane Harvey impact nationwide auto sales? My thoughts. Read…  What will Harvey do to “Carmageddon?”

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  65 comments for “What Did Harvey Do to the Wind Farms on the Texas Coast?

  1. JungleJim says:

    Slightly off topic, Harvey’s devastation will be an interesting test of whether a cash-less society can function in emergencies. Credit cards are fine until you lose power. From the pictures I have seen it may be a while before southeast Texas has reliable electrical power again.

    • Ethan in Northern VA says:

      Inmarsat, Irridium, HughesNet, WildBlue, etc is all you need during outage.

      • Jon James says:

        HughesNet and Exede (Wild Blue successor in interest) require a typical power source. They are fixed satellite broadband services. Iridum, Globalstar and Inmarsat are mobile satellite solutions but the equipment expensive. Only large retailers and service prividers could afford that type of solution.

        • Nicko2 says:

          SAT phones USED to be expensive, but only cost a few hundred dollars now. Of course, the minutes are expensive, but for emergency purposes, they are viable for most people to justify in an emergency kit.

    • TheDona says:

      The cities/towns directly hit by the hurricane are mostly without power and some, water. Amazingly, full power is expected by mid next week. Crews from all over the country are working 14 hour days. Houston did not get the wind, so lines not affected. Some of the sub-stations flooded causing power outage but it was quickly remedied. Postings of banks reopened are online. They are waiving fees for non customer ATM use.

    • Keith says:

      I think a comparison of how it improved, or didn’t to Katrina would be interesting. I recall driving through the southeast during and in the aftermath. From LA until about the remote ‘burbs or GA, credit was offline for days if not weeks. Also, cellular and SMS went down, making any non cash payment impossible. I also recall a couple a years ago driving up I95 through the Carolina’s during a T-storm, it knocked out not only gas pumps, but CC machines for a better part of an hour. I think there will always be a need for the physical stuff.

  2. OutLookingIn says:


    Hurricane Irma is expected to reach category 3 status overnight and continue to intensify in the days to come. It is still well out in the Atlantic, but is expected to track according to models, into the US mainland anywhere from South Carolina to the Gulf Coast. With Florida being a primary landing zone.


    • Kent says:

      I’m a Floridian and government worker. If it comes towards Central Florida, I’ll be working in my county’s emergency operations center. If it comes bigger than a Cat 3, I’ll be sending the family way out of state for a week or so.

      • penfold danger mouse says:

        leave early.

        better to be a false alarm and turn around from a comfy hotel room in Georgia than to be stuck on the Fla. Turnpike for 9 hours.

        • Keith says:

          I agree, either out first or you need to hunker down. Learned that first hand living in NOLA and getting stuck barely outside the city and sleeping in a reststop after several hours.

    • TJ Martin says:

      Either you or Zerohedge are a bit behind the eight ball . Irma hit category 4 yesterday slightly diminishing today and expected to re-energize with the possibility should conditions remain the same to at least a category 4 with the potential of becoming a category 5 [ NOAA ]

      • OutLookingIn says:

        Yes, you are correct. I see the updated forecast.
        The tracking model has a small chance of Irma ending up in the Gulf and hitting the southern shore of the US.
        If this were to occur on the heals of Harvey, it would be a catastrophic disaster of biblical proportions.

    • RangerOne says:

      Highly unfortunate timing if it lands… when was the last time we had two major disaster areas at the same time?

  3. mvojy says:

    Those turbines went to LUDICROUS SPEED from those hurricane winds. They were going so fast they went plaid.

  4. Paulo says:

    Very interesting article. Infrastructure/grid itself seems to be the Achilles heel. I had been wondering how they fared and it seems as if they hung in there as well as NG. Of course there are scads in the north sea as well so tower strength and feathering have been designed to a fault.

    I think the wind farm industry, engineering, and designers including maintenenace should give themselves a pat on the back. The chemical industry plants? hmmm, maybe not so much. Good thing there are no nuke plants on this part of the coast. Only time before that disaster develops, I suppose. Of course a hurricane is of considerably less impact than a tsunami like Fukishima. Still, with sea level rise underway and looming, everything is increasingly vulnerable.

    Let’s hope Hurricane Irma plays somewhere else.

    • Scott says:

      Yes, but the transmission lines to and from the power plant need to be considered part of the plant’s ability to provide reliable power. Simply blaming it on the transmission system is not a fair answer.

      This isn’t a problem associated with only renewables. During a blizzard a few years ago, Pilgrim Power Plant in Massachusetts was offline because the transmission line connecting it to the grid went down.

    • TJ Martin says:

      ” Infrastructure/grid itself seems to be the Achilles heel ”

      Actually it IS the Achilles heel of the 21st century

      Suffice it to say the more dependent we become on electricity the more dramatic and lasting the effects of any natural disaster or weather event will become . Add to that the fact that the entire grid is severely outdated in a state of decay desperately needing upgrading and expansion and you’ve got yourself an impending disaster of epic proportions with the capability to spread nationwide in the blink of an eye . And should a major terrorist event or war come into play ? Too scary to think about .

      Which err … kinda makes you think twice about buying an EV .. doesn’t it .

      • Wolf Richter says:

        Agree – but just to add to “Which err … kinda makes you think twice about buying an EV .. doesn’t it…”

        No electricity = no gas pump, no gas, no credit card to pay for the gas you can’t pump…. In other words, when the lights go out, it gets tough for everyone unless you have a couple of hundred gallons of fuel stored in your garage, which is not recommended.

        • Nala says:

          It is my understanding modern gas stations must now have back up generators, but even those generators will eventually run out of fuel…

        • Penfold Dangermouse says:

          you don’t need to be a prepper. One full gas tank + one plastic spare should provide enough range for a person/family to escape immediate danger. Say 100 to 200 miles + hours of idling—suitable 99.9% of all foreseeable emergencies.

          Two neighbors with 1/2 full gas tanks can stitch together a 300-mile range for 1 car using a garden hose.

          Try that with 2 half-charged Teslas. Just sayin’ that in an emergency you want to find every tailwind’s worth of good luck. And I imagine petrol is much more robust than the grid.

        • RD Blakeslee says:

          400 gallons of diesel fuel in an outside storage tank in a rural area, to fuel a diesel generator and pickup truck, IS recommended.

        • RangerOne says:

          But electricty could be far more robust today at least in areas of high sunshine. The weakness of electricity is that we are hooked into one grid.

          If electricity generation was fully distrusted or at least mostly we could reach a point where every building has its own. Power grid.

          Even gas in a major emergency is vulnerable to supply shortage. But you can stock pile and ship in gas. One day with better batteries similar power stockpiling could occur.

          But none of that being true today an EV cannot serve as an emergenvy vehical. Biodeasel is probably your safest zombie apocalypse option.

        • Keith says:

          I would disagree, at least regarding hurricane. Once they enter the Gulf, you are hit with highway signs stating as much and urging you to keep a full tank. That is the perfect time to stock up on gas, provided you thought ahead and bought gas cans, which become scarce. Add with that modern MPG, and you would have the fuel to drive for days. Experienced that one first hand in Katrina.

        • vegeholic says:

          refined fuel has a shelf life which is shorter than you think. so unless you want to continually extract and replenish your stockpile, it quickly loses value. of course you may stockpile crude oil and then operate your own refinery. effecting prepping is not easy.

      • mean chicken says:

        “Which err … kinda makes you think twice about buying an EV .. doesn’t it .”

        Never question authority or conventional wisdom!

    • David in Texas says:

      Actually, there is a nuclear plant on the coast. The South Texas Nuclear Plant in Bay City, about 50-60 miles southwest of Houston.

      As the article below says, “give credit to resilient operators, robust design, and a plan.”


  5. nick kelly says:

    It’s impressive that a wind catcher can withstand such high winds. If I recall in the early days of modern wind mills quite a few were damaged by high winds.

    • Vic says:

      The blades on wind turbines are not fixed pitch – in other words they don’t turn faster as wind speed increases. The pitch of the blades is adjusted to limit rotation speed, both to protect the generator gears and also to prevent the blade tips from going supersonic (too fast). In extreme high winds the blades are “feathered” to stop rotation.

  6. Gershon says:

    If we could harness the energy generated by the revolving door between our Federal regulators, enforcers, and “elected officials” like Eric Cantor and the Wall Street firms they’re supposed to be overseeing, we could power the entire eastern seaboard.

    • Wolf Richter says:

      hahahaha… I’ll be laughing for a while longer. Just priceless. Made my morning.

      I might quote this someday in an article.

    • mean chicken says:

      I’m not big on making assumptions, I believe in drawing conclusions based on post-mortum results. Based on my observations, Wall Street always comes out on top!

      Great article Wolf, I was just about to look into the subject.

  7. Gershon says:

    Get ready for another taxpayer-funded financial sector bailout as Houston “homeowners” stop paying on their mortgages.


  8. ru82 says:

    Well….these days it appears as most news is bullish. Sure there are some issues with car sales…etc, but they do not outweigh all the good economic activity.

    There are help wanted signs in window shops all over the place. Construction of new homes, apartment buildings, and fast food restaurants. In addition the local shopping centers seem to be very busy.

    • Frederick says:

      Yeah right The employment numbers just came out and were horrendous at 156k last month revised down You should probably cut back on the govt supplied koolaide

    • akiddy111 says:

      Not true !

      New construction of Apartment buildings are down 34% Y/Y. Check the Census bureau for confirmation.

      Restaurant same store sales are down 2% in Q2. Check Black Box data.

      Please do not get me started on shopping centers.

      And yes. We all know that dealers are selling less vehicles YTD compared to 2016.

      Add to this the insane valuations of bonds, ALL equities and real estate.

      I’m glad you’re bullish. How does that song go ? “The future’s so bright, i wanna wear shades.”

  9. toby tyler says:

    the amount of volunteer activity is mind boggling…live in austin but know of people who went there w/boats and have helped out and some nephews near san antonio who are going down for the weekend w/weiners/hamburegers etc to do a cookout for the volunteers…as a transplanted new yorker I cannot praise texans enough………..salvation army should get more credit as a volunteer organization as they are always there

  10. penfold danger mouse says:

    as a semi-related aside….lesson from hurricane season is not to rely on an electric vehicle as your primary mode of transportation if you live in an area with a chance of major natural disaster? (hurricane, earthquake, flooding, etc)

    you can’t do much if the grid is down or your local battery pack is damaged.

    People tend to act like Mother Nature’s been tamed. But once in 100/500/1,000-year events still happen.

    • RD Blakeslee says:


      400 gallons of diesel fuel in an outside storage tank in a rural area, to fuel a diesel generator and pickup truck, is recommended.

      • Paulo says:

        Plus a hidden envelope full of cash….nothing bigger than a twenty. We prep to the 9th degree in our home because the risk is always there, and we always lose power during storm season. We also have about $1,000 cash squirreled away for a ‘just in case’. I read about people in Houston who didn’t even own a flashlight and were upset when rescuers passed by in the dark. People might be poor and live in an apartment without all the prep goodies for sure, but a flashlight can be bought for $2.00 at a Dollar Store. Living on the west coast we have always had earthquake supplies adequate for a week, anyway. It doesn’t take much.

        You can’t tell me that that the homeowners in the flooded subdivisions cannot afford emergency supplies. Their houses are $1,000,000+.

        It is unreal watching the politicians (no names mentioned) talking about how Houston has turned a corner. Washington said the recovery ‘is going well’. Actually, the pain is just starting to wind up. Pray, Irma lands somewhere else.

        Any collective help from govt. is awesome, but if there are a couple more of these storms there won’t be much help available. Instead, help will come from individuals and charitable groups like Salvation Army, Menonite congregations, and the like.

        Maybe people will use their looming tax cuts for emergency preps. Wait a minute, won’t that be zero sum?

      • unit472 says:

        Weatherchannel was running lots of ads for Generac, the back up generator company, in recent days. Not a bad idea at all but putting them on a pad next to your house maybe if there is a flood! Not only will you not have electric power but your generator will be ruined.

        If you are going to spend $5000 or so on a stand by powerplant it might be a good idea to spend another $1000 or so and elevate the thing!

        • Kent says:

          I know a few people who’ve installed generators after a hurricane left them in 100 degree Florida heat with 98% humidity for a week. The ugly reality is you may only need to run it once every 4 or 5 years. The chances that the carburetor and fuel are still good are pretty much nil. The chances your average Joe can even find the carburetor, much less rebuild it, are pretty much nil.

          Save the money and get a nice hotel room in-land.

        • RD Blakeslee says:

          Better to pay attention to the elevation of your homesite, prferably, before you buy it …

      • TXRancher says:

        Yes sir! 500 gal diesel, 120 gal gas, diesel truck, diesel tractor, diesel generator with light tower (10 kW), gas welder/generator (8kW), propane tanks, mesquite wood, water purifier system, cash in the safe, canned food, frozen food (only need to run freezer occasionally) and ammunition stockpile. Not prepping just being prepared. And PRI-G maintains gas and PRI-D maintains diesel for 1 year, minimum.

  11. Realist says:

    I wonder, Blackrock et all, are they big landlords iin Huston and neighboring cities ? If they have houses there that have been damaged, will they rebuild or not ? After all, they did buy up housing in areas that did not fare too well during the first phase of the crisis so one might wonder wether these landlords have any interest in rebuilding …

    • Petunia says:

      I was wondering the same thing. I don’t know if they self insure or have flood insurance on their properties. They probably don’t have flood insurance because it is not required and they like to keep costs down. The actual losses will be borne by the investors in the end. They may actually see this as an opportunity to pick up an entire city’s worth of properties, if they can raise the money.

      • Tom Kauser says:

        Flood insurance? Billionaires with large building funds get the opportunity to remake and upgrade Houston? This could be the green shoots of a new B2b investment cycle! Markets are empty at a generation bottom for participation and everyone is WAITING for a perfect time? Your welcome! Companies have bought back a lot of certificates also. Patience and conviction Houston will b better!

      • Tom Kauser says:

        Have you ever heard the story about broccoli man? He is handsome and very pushy! Put that coffee down, coffee’s for closers!

  12. Tom Kauser says:

    Buying warren a lot more cherry cokes

  13. Tom Kauser says:

    First it was a dollar collapse and now its negative interest rates after a disaster just wiped out the top city for important stuff?

  14. Tom Kauser says:

    Heavens TBT has a Friday bid?

  15. Sunny Veil says:

    Off Topic but relevant re flooding and electrical currents for anyone in a flood zone, I’ve been disgusted (it certainly won’t be the first time) that mainstream news outlets don’t seem to have pieces on this significant issue.

    Since I live in a flood zone I did a search yesterday, expecting to come up with Harvey related pieces, but did come up with the following 2012 piece, which I’ve excerpted below (while I can’t verify that it works, it makes sense and is better than no suggestion at all when one desperately needs to enter water which may be electrified), emphasis mine :

    11/04/12 How to test for electrified flood waters without tools

    In the duration and aftermath of flooding, you may be faced with a situation where your house or surrounding area is flooded, and electrical points submerged. If you must wade into potentially electrified waters with no tools to test for electricity, there is a technique of last resort you can use. We also cover how to prepare for flooding and what to do if someone falls into electrified water
    If your house in danger of flooding or is in the process of being flooded, and you have not evacuated before then, you should make all efforts to turn off the main switch in the switch box. When doing so, make sure you are standing on dry land and NOT submerged in water. Use clothes to cover your hands when switching off for additional safety.

    Testing if there is electricity flowing through the water

    If your house is flooded and you have not have had the chance to turn off the main switch, or have reached a flooded area, there is a possibility that electricity may be leaking from power points or submerged power lines from your own house or from others. If you don’t have equipment to test for electrified water, and you need to enter the waters, you can use the following technique you can lightly touch the water using the back of your hand. Do NOT use the front, as that will electrocute you. Also, do NOT submerge your hand into the water as it may kill you.

    In the event you feel a tingly sensation, it means there is a current still flowing. Identify the source of the current and turn it off before retesting and entering the water, or wait for rescue.

    Why we should use the back of the hand only:

    If you use the back of the hand, the electric shock will cause your muscles to cramp, automatically pulling your hand out of the water. If you use the front of the hand the electricity will make your muscles close & your hand will submerge into the water.

    Why having a Ground Fault Interrupter might be a good idea:

    If you live in a flood area, it may be safer for your main circuit breaker to have a Ground Fault Interrupter (GFI), also known as an Earth Fault Breaker. This is a circuit which detects leaking current from the dangerous side of the circuit, and if the current does not return on its normal path. Not only will this automatically turn off your electricity during a flood but will protect your whole house all the time from possible electrocution and from some possible (but not all) electrical fires.

    • Sunny Veil says:

      If someone has fallen into water with electricity still flowing, and is being electrocuted

      Do NOT follow that person into the water, as you too will be electrocuted. Instead, use a rope, dry towel or anything to get the person to dry land. Do NOT touch the water.

      Being electrocuted for more than 0.04 seconds will likely result in the victim’s heart stopping, so you must take their pulse and immediately perform CPR.

  16. mean chicken says:

    Buffett is trying to convince people into accepting sub 2% anemic growth as not only acceptable, but exemplary. Hah, 2% growth doesn’t even keep up with inflation!

    This coming from the same man who NEVER talks down the US economy, double shame!

    • Kent says:

      I don’t know. A 2% return on $60 billion, or $1.2 billion, isn’t bad for not having to actually do anything. I’m sure that really helps you overlook some of the negativity out there.

  17. tony says:

    sunny veil you know your shit as the english would say brillant in screw loose calfornia it.s awesome.

    • Sunny Veil says:

      Thanks Tony,

      My caution regarding electricity came about decades ago, after a well loved eighth grade classmate of mine climbed a telephone pole guy wire to watch a sports game in a field below and touched the wrong wire. He died and his younger brother suffered major burns grabbing his body to save him.

      Further was taught by parents, early on, never to deal with electricity while wet or in water; that metals and water are perfect conductors, whereas dry wood, cloth of a natural fiber, or nylon, and rubber (as in rubber tires on a metal car, don’t get out from one’s car into a puddle with a downed live wire ) can provide a block to being electrocuted.

      • Sunny Veil says:

        I should qualify that my comment had nothing to do with California screws loose, or tightened, though.

        I was born in Pennsylvania, and raised, variously, in: Pittsburgh, PA; Seattle WA; Freeport Illinois, then Pittsburgh, PA again. Moved to Sly Con Valley as a single female paying her own way, only because jawbs dried up in PA.

        (Yeah, my dad was a Cold War™ engineer (who despised Poppy Bush …) with patents to his name, which ultimately did him, personally, no good, for those who are quite familiar with the trajectory).

        • Sunny Veil says:

          and – more usual than not? – my Daddy was certainly not born in Three Rivers [Ex Record City of Corporate Domicile$, flowing into the Ohio and Mississippi River$] , Pittsburgh, PA, and neither was my Momma.

          My dad and mom were born in Southern Illinois (near Peoria), and Irvington, New Jersey (near Hobokin), they met in Chicago,both attending Hugh Hefner’s renowned alma matter (Hugh certainly Did well™)

          My dad went there on the GI Bill , my mom as they were forced to migrate across the country from New Jersey to where my grandpa could pay the rent, and he did everything he could, sans College Degree™ himself, trying to make sure his two daughers (my mother the eldest) and son would survive.

  18. raxadian says:

    So, what’s the state of the use of legal currency is the US? I already know bollars bills are way more used outside the US than inside.

  19. Lee says:

    In South Australia there are three sources of electrical energy and that is it:

    1. NG
    2. Wind
    3. Solar (Small scale)

    When the wind doesn’t blow they have to rely primarily on NG. The price of NG in Australia has soared as huge export contracts were undertaken when the big players built huge LNG plants in Queensland.

    All fine, but production didn’t quite meet the expected results which has sucked NG from other producing regions in Australia driving up the domestic price to higher than what the companies are getting for exports.

    So now South Australia has some of the highest electricity prices in the world because of that high NG price.

    Right now the wind is blowing pretty good in South Australia and is proving about 5/8 of the electricity being used there. As it is night there is no solar electrcity being produced.

    AS I have posted before there is supposed to be a huge Tesla battery farm built there, but haven’t heard a peep about the progress.

    The greenies are all excited about South Australia, its domestic solar production, wind and soon to be large scale solar and associated battery farm……………

    But there is one problem with all the domestic solar installed here in Australia – it is ‘grid tied’.

    The grid goes down and so does the inverter and panels. Most systems here are not able to provide power when that happens.

    So system blackouts = no domestic solar generation. OOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOPS!

    Summer is only a few months away now and so it the next increase in electricity and NG prices here in Victoria.

    We will probably hit 40 cents per kilowatt hour iwth this price increase.

    It is going to be an interesting summer here if the temps soar as they usually do.

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