Earthquake Knocks Out Nukes. Wind Keeps Spinning. What’s That About “Intermittent Power”?

JR:  Best Earthquake Tweets (via Ezra Klein):

@ModeledBehavior: “More and more scientists are questioning whether that was a real quake. It is a theory that’s out there.”

@MichaelSLinden: “US Geological Survey’s budget was cut by some $20 million this year. #justsaying”

@politicoroger: “We wouldn’t be having earthquakes like this if Hillary were president.”

@bradplumer: “A nuclear reactor near epicenter of VA earthquake is designed to withstand a 5.9-6.1 quake: We got 5.8”

by Peter Sinclair, Climate De-Crocker Extraordinaire.  Sinclair put up this post shortly after the magnitude 5.9 quake, centered outside of Charlottesville, VA, shook the East Coast.  I certainly felt it in my basement in DC!  I’ll add some comments at the end.

For those that have not yet heard, the East coast USA, including the DC area, was hit today by the largest earthquake yet recorded in that area. The Washington Post reports:

RICHMOND, Va. — Federal officials say two nuclear reactors at the North Anna Power Station in Louisa County, Va., were automatically taken off line by safety systems around the time of the earthquake.

The Dominion-operated power plant is being run off three emergency diesel generators, which are supplying power for critical safety equipment. The NRC and Dominion are sending people to inspect the plant.

A fourth diesel generator failed, but it wasn’t considered an emergency because the other generators are working, according to the Nuclear Regulatory Commission.

Dominion said it declared an alert at the North Anna facility and the reactors have been shut down safely and no major damage has been reported.

The earthquake was felt at the company’s other Virginia nuclear power station, Surry Power Station in southeast Virginia, but not as strongly there. Both units at that power station continue to operate safely, Dominion said.

The quake also caused Dominion’s newest power station, Bear Garden in Buckingham County, to shut down automatically.

As of now, no reports of shutdowns, oil spills, or radioactive leaks at any wind turbines.

Windbaggers and climate deniers like to say that renewables are “intermittent, unreliable power”. But, when large power plants like nukes trip offline, they very often do so instantaneously, presenting a real challenge to electric grids.  By contrast, when winds calm, wind power generally slows predictably, allowing system operators hours to adjust and shift loads.

My wind video below, explains why the “intermittent” dog don’t hunt.

— Peter Sinclair

Related Post:

1.  Intelligent Demand Response
2.  Microinverters and Maximum Power Point Trackers
3.  Wind Energy Management Tools
4.  The Virtual Power Plant
5.  The Hybrid Solar-Gas Power Plant

Joe Romm: The good news is that their is no post-quake tsunami threatening the shut down nukes.  On the other hand, we do have a hurricane bearing down on the East Coast.  Matt Yglesias also has a relevant post on this, “Across The Board Spending Cuts Reduce Spending Across The Board, Even On Newsworthy Programs“:

This conservative wag has my number:

I really don’t understand how people can be so blinkered as to think that it’s somehow unfair to point out that a political movement that supports across the board cuts in federal spending does, in fact, want to cut spending on each and every program. That includes programs that are currently newsworthy. However, since it’s apparently unfair to accurately characterize the consequences of across-the-board cuts in federal spending as applied to newsworthy events, let’s just discuss other things.

— When you cut funding across the board, you cut funding for responding to forest fires.
— When you cut funding across the board, you cut funding for hungry children.
— When you cut funding across the board, you cut funding for medical research.
— When you cut funding across the board, you cut funding for infectious disease monitoring.

As it happens, neither homes burning down in wildfires nor malnourished children nor cancer deaths nor flu epidemics are in the news today. So the fact that congressional Republicans cut spending on preventing those things isn’t highly salient. But the good news is that pointing out that they cut funding on this stuff doesn’t constitute “politicizing” any ongoing natural disasters. Astute readers will note, however, that the meaning of across the board spending cuts is that you’re cutting spending on all programs.

— Matt Yglesias


Below are old comments from the earlier Facebook commenting system:

Super Headline, Joe! Bravo

5 · Like · Reply · Subscribe · 20 hours ago

Jon Warren Lentz · Carlsbad, California

Romm is On.

Like · Reply · 20 hours ago

Mike Roddy · Top Commenter · Yucca Valley, California

The other issue is that recent past history is not a good predictor of earthquakes. We learned recently that the Northwest has a real Big One in store, and Seattle downtown is designed for a 7 (in spite of what the building managers claim). A bunch of them will topple some day. A repeat of the giant Missouri quake from the middle of the 19th century has not been designed for either, especially in commercial buildings in St. Louis. Same with the Japan quake- nobody really thinks about a 9 anywhere.

There are nuclear reactors and oil and gas pipelines all over the country that will fail when a big quake hits. Only Texas appears to be faultline free, but they’ve got plenty of other problems. Wind is the safe and obvious solution.

3 · Like · Reply · Subscribe · 21 hours ago

Christopher S. Johnson

Nice to see Peter Sinclair in here. I’m a another fan of his videos, Climate Denial Crock of the Week.

3 · Like · Reply · Subscribe · 21 hours ago

Matt Tripoli

While the headline is cute and the knock on the intermittancy of renewables is overblown, I disagree with your logic. To me this event demonstrated the strength of conventional generation sources and demand response, more so than renewables. Large thermal plants all across the PJM transmission control area hold 50+ MW each of generation in reserve, and demand response resources hold much the same. The ability of these resources to ramp up or ramp off to pick up load is the reason the grid stayed up and running across much of the mid-Atlantic.

Thermal plants are succeptible to equipment failure, and so are wind turbines. Thermal plants are not succeptible to a loss of fuel. If anything, the generation system’s response to this event shows the value of geographically distributed resources, more so than the value of any one technology.

1 · Like · Reply · Subscribe · 19 hours ago

Jeffery Green

I don’t think anyone disagrees with what you have said in point of distributed resources. Point made is that if the utility can adjust to a sudden 1.8 GW drop in power source, it can easily adjust to wind changing itsvariablity source power.

Like · Reply · 10 hours ago

Bryan Kuruts

Not if more wind capacity bids into the daily market than we can schedule primary reserve for.

1 · Like · Reply · 6 hours ago

Bryan Kuruts

Correction: Meant “day ahead market”

Like · Reply · about an hour ago

Joan Savage · Top Commenter · SUNY-ESF

Possibly the GOP has been influenced by corporate policies that ‘externalize costs, internalize profits.’ That might explain how elements in the GOP take for granted the components of a healthy status quo, but won’t pay for them. They treat the excellent weather warnings, no flu epidemic, and the comfort of wind turbine energy supply as if those were yet more natural resources to exhaust for profit.
What happened to values like, pay for what is used, give thanks, give back?

1 · Like · Reply · Subscribe · 21 hours ago

Colorado Bob · Top Commenter

A number of Texas power plants may need to cut back operations or shut down completely if the state’s severe drought continues into the fall, an official with Texas’ main transmission manager told FuelFix.
At least one North Texas power plant has had to reduce how much it generates because the water level in its cooling reservoir has fallen significantly, said Kent Saathoff, vice president of system planning and operations for the Electric Reliability Council of Texas.

Like · Reply · Subscribe · 9 hours ago

John Tucker · Top Commenter · Tulane University

When 5+ EQs become even a yearly occurrence in a region ill go 100 percent wind over nuclear. Now however its not practical and incidentally people should be more concerned with wind’s usual capacity replacer – Natural Gas and the thousands of miles of pipelines affected by this event.

Nuclear Reactors are well scrutinized, and lets face it, there has been less than 100 civilian casualties documented from radiation in the over 50 years of operation. Counting reviewed scientific studies of long term effects. Counting Chernobyl.

Like · Reply · Subscribe · 17 hours ago

John Tucker · Top Commenter · Tulane University

While we are discussing wind and since im not making friends here – lets look at what it takes to get 500 MW if electricity at best about 1/3 of the time:

Ill say 50 acres/MW ( closer to 100 actually) thats 25000 – 50000 acres of turbines. For at least half the power over a intermittent period. The new 1GW Blythe Solar Farm is 7000 acres (probably the same as a 350 MW constant generation facility). But ive read they will be developing 23,842 acres of pristine desert lands. ( )

Although I am all for as much of this as possible, its not so easy when you get down to detains. – I don’t get the practically thing in deriding all nuclear power however, If you are actually planning on slowing the climate disaster.

It seems like a terrible mistake.

1 · Like · Reply · 17 hours ago

Jeffery Green

Fukishima now has a 12 mile zone that will possibly be uninhabitable for decades.

United States is now in a state of regulatory capture. The industry haws lots of insiders in the NRC. Our standards are weakening with an aging fleet of reactors.

The vulnerablity of a reactor is that everything is fine unitil all at once you have a disaster. It’s as though a Fuikishima could never happen here? I don’t have a problem with replacing nuclear where possible with a renewable energy system.

Like · Reply · 10 hours ago

Climate Chaos

AUDIO: Windsor shaken and stirred by rumbling – Windsor – CBC News.
CBC Radio’s As It Happens tries to get to the bottom of a mysterious rumbling that is shaking residents of Windsor, Ont., out of sleep at night.

Like · Reply · Subscribe · 20 hours ago

Seth Bauer

This is a genuine question, not snark: What happens to wind turbines in hurricanes? Could this story go the other way a couple of days from now?

Like · Reply · Subscribe · 6 hours ago

Christopher Winter · University of Iowa

The quick answer is that they shut down if the wind gets too strong. For horizontal-axis turbines, I think that means 30-40 mph. Vertical-axis, I have no idea (but they’re not common yet.)

If you’re asking whether a hurricane would knock them down, I have to say it’s possible.

Like · Reply · 5 hours ago

catman306 (signed in using Yahoo)

I’d like to see it linked to mountain top removal but I doubt if anyone is going to fund that research. Not WV, not the coal companies.

Like · Reply · Subscribe · 22 hours ago

Robert Fanney · Top Commenter · Flagler College

This is a fantastic point. Here you have the difference between fragile power and resilient power. Renewables are resilient because they are distributed, rather tough, and don’t require complex engineering systems to maintain them.

Like · Reply · Subscribe · 4 hours ago

Anumakonda Jagadeesh

Wind as a supplement to conventional Energy has come to stay.

Dr.A.Jagadeesh Nellore(AP), India.
Wind Energy Expert.

Like · Reply · Subscribe · 15 hours ago

Prokaryotes – · Top Commenter (signed in using Hotmail)

The lesson here is that with catastrophic climate disruption, which means more seismic activities too, we face a lot of unsafe nuclear plants.

Like · Reply · Subscribe · 19 hours ago

Jeffrey Davis · Top Commenter

Dominionists. Out to wreck the country.

Like · Reply · Subscribe · 21 hours ago

3 Responses to Earthquake Knocks Out Nukes. Wind Keeps Spinning. What’s That About “Intermittent Power”?

  1. David B. Benson says:

    But of course my comments seem to have disappeared.

  2. Joe Romm says:

    Which comments? According to what I am looking at, 2750 comments of yours are to be found on this website. As I said, we may have lost a few comments from FB, but I think we saved most of them — in the body of the text.

  3. David B. Benson says:

    My comments on this thread from yesterday. For some reason that I don’t understand all of them were listed first, irrespective of posting time.

    I’ve been through the enitre thread, from top to bottom and my comments are not there although many other commenters, from around the same time, are included in the thread.

    [JR: I’ve heard similar issues for weeks. Hopefully that won’t happen any more.]