The US state of Texas endured widespread black-outs on Monday and Tuesday amid a record-breaking winter storm that swept the Great Plains area. As of Tuesday night, three quarters of the United States mainland is covered in snow, an all-time record.
At the peak of the rolling black-outs, 10.5GW of power was off-line in Texas. This is equivalent to the electricity use of the entire state of New South Wales.
With failing electricity and gas heating infrastructure, Texans have faced sub-zero temperatures inside their own homes. Houston (pop. 7m), which has roughly the same latitude as Brisbane, hit -8°C, breaking a 117-year record. Similar records have been smashed across the mid-west.
Sadly, as they were in South Australia, the black-outs have been used as an opening for misinformation on renewable energy. Texas’s governor has already been on Fox claiming the black-outs show fossil fuels are necessary. “This shows why the Green New Deal would be a deadly deal for America,” said the governor.
The Wall Street Journal read from the same script. It editorialised about “the left’s climate agenda,” saying “the folly of eliminating natural gas – and coal.” Of course, climate and renewables are already way beyond left and right at this point. Net zero emissions is the goal supported by world leaders across the political spectrum.
But more importantly, these claims vastly exaggerated the facts. Prof. Dan Kammen of UC Berkeley told the SF Chronicle on Monday that Texas faced a 30GW energy shortage. About 4GW of forecast generating capacity were lost due to wind turbines failing. The other 26GW resulted from gas shortages, with refineries shutting down and pipelines freezing up.
On Tuesday, according to USA Today, 45GW was off-line. This was made up of 30G of thermal power (coal and gas) and 15GW of wind capacity.
Despite some wind turbines not operating, those that were produced far above what was forecast, due to the wind speeds associated with the storm. For a period, wind was in fact generating more electricity than forecast.
This didn’t matter to the trolls, though. One anti-renewable viral image claiming to show helicopters de-icing wind turbines was in fact taken in Sweden in 2013. Among those sharing the image was QAnon-supporting congresswoman Lauren Boebart.
So don’t get it twisted. The real cause of these black-outs is lack of grid interconnectivity and adequate electricity storage capacity, not wind power.
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