Tuesday, February 16, 2021

How much is reliable energy supplies worth?

Half of Texas Wind Turbines Freeze, Hurting Electricity Output60,215

Texas wind turbines (Spencer Platt / Getty)
Spencer Platt / Getty

Nearly half of the wind turbines in the state of Texas froze in recent winter weather, hurting state power supplies, according to state authorities.

Nearly half of Texas’ installed wind power generation capacity has been offline because of frozen wind turbines in West Texas, according to Texas grid operators.

Wind farms across the state generate up to a combined 25,100 megawatts of energy. But unusually moist winter conditions in West Texas brought on by the weekend’s freezing rain and historically low temperatures have iced many of those wind turbines to a halt.

As of Sunday morning, those iced turbines comprise 12,000 megawatts of Texas’ installed wind generation capacity, although those West Texas turbines don’t typically spin to their full generation capacity this time of year.

The outlet noted that the loss of power was largely offset by the fact that the remaining turbines were spinning quickly because of strong winter storm winds.

Millions of electricity customers across Texas suffered blackouts, partly due to the problems with the turbines, as the Washington Post reported:

Millions of households in Texas are suffering rolling power blackouts for the first time in a decade as an unprecedented Arctic freeze wrought chaos in U.S. energy markets.

The largest cities from Houston to San Antonio were without power for spells of up to an hour at a time as supplies in the U.S.’s second largest state fluctuated wildly.

The power crunch is being compounded by a lack of wind generation to help ease the load with output more than halving to 4.2 gigawatts from earlier. Wind turbines may freeze in bitterly cold weather, reducing efficiency and the blades can ultimately stopping spinning.

The problems in Texas echo difficulties with renewable energy that California experienced during a heat wave in September, when there were rolling blackouts because there was no wind, while overcast skies meant there was little solar energy.

Wind supplies 23% of the energy in Texas and has been growing rapidly in the state. Texas is also the leading producer of wind energy in the nation.

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