Trying to be as a political as I can be given today’s topic, I feel like I need to add my voice and look at possible solutions to situation in Texas. Leaders in Texas from Governor Greg Abbott to Rick Perry were quick to blame the power outages in Texas on the freezing of wind turbines. Governor Abbott himself was quoted saying that wind and solar made up “more than 10%” of the power grid in Texas, and according to the Electric Reliability Council of Texas wind energy made up 15.9% of energy production in Texas in 2018. So how can a 10-15% drop in production cause statewide power outages? The true reason for the outages was not that the turbines froze, which they did, and no one is denying that, but it is because the energy grid all over Texas failed because deregulation of the energy grid in the 1999 has led to less strict standards of upkeep and preparedness.
Now that the elephant in the room has been addressed, lets look at ways that an emergency of this scale can be avoided and let us look at the renewable tools that can make it happen. Since wind turbines are in the forefront of the blame here, we will look at examples of various technologies and methods that turbines have modified to function in artic weather. Swedish researchers have been testing artic wind turbines for years now, with some testing having started as long as a decade ago. At Uljabuoda, Swedish Utility company Skelleftea Kraft AB was one of the first to experiment with wind turbines in the Arctic. The researchers created two solutions to the freezing blade problem. The first is to add a carbon fiber coating on the blades which can be heated to melt the ice. The second method is a system which would not heat the surface of the blades but heat them from the inside instead. Obviously, these upgrades to the wind turbines are costly, a 5% increase in price on average.
Now these methods have shown that wind turbines can be successfully operated within the arctic circle as temperatures as low as -22 degrees Fahrenheit. According to local ABC 13 news, the lowest temperature recorded in Houston during this winter storm was 13 degrees Fahrenheit. And now finally we have to look at the choice that Texas has to make. Is it time to regulate their energy grid more stringently? Would investing into winterproof wind turbines make sense? Was this storm a once in a century storm and do we not need to worry about artic temperatures in Texas any time soon? Or, is this going to become the new normal with climate change and will the investment now pay off in the future? At this time I am earnestly urging you to stay informed about all the facts when renewables get blamed and think about how there are still ways to move forward and not backwards on an unsustainable path.