The Reliability of Renewable Energy
To the Editor:
Every morning I rise out of bed about 5 AM to let my dogs out among other things to start my day. Not much later, the sun rises.
It would be incorrect to conclude that the sun rises every day because I get out of bed. Although the two occur every day, my getting up each morning does not cause the sun to rise.
Once again we see this faulty logic being applied by opponents of renewable energy to blame it for a major blackout. In this case, they claim that wind turbines caused the massive blackout in Texas.
Just as it is true that I rise before sunrise each day, some wind turbines in Texas did freeze. But just as my getting out of bed does not cause the sun to rise, wind turbines did not cause the widespread blackout.
The Electric Reliability Council of Texas (Ercot), which operates the state’s power grid, said in a press conference on February 16 that although some wind turbines did freeze, failures in natural gas, coal and nuclear energy systems, coupled with a limited supply of natural gas, were responsible for nearly twice as many outages as renewables. Frozen pipelines, instruments at gas, coal and even nuclear power stations were among the main problems, Ercot director Dan Woodfin said.
Wind energy, in fact, actually surpassed daily production forecasts over the past weekend. And, non-traditional renewable sources (solar and wind) are coming back faster than gas and nuclear.
One of those who hastily blamed wind energy was Texas Governor Greg Abbott. Rather than seeing to the needs of his constituents, he rushed to appear on Fox to weaponize the blackout in an attempt to discredit renewal energy. This could explain why some officials in Texas received a phone call from President Biden before Gov. Abbot.
I wonder if Gov. Abbott’s quickness to appear on Fox denouncing wind energy was motivated by the more than $26 million he has received in life-time contributions from the oil and gas industry.
Some of the renewable energy critics now have modified their arguments in an attempt to discredit the use of wind turbines as an energy source. They posit that wind energy is unreliable because turbines are susceptible to freezing weather.
True, but we only need to look to Canada and European countries to see that wind turbines continue to operate in significantly colder weather than what Texas experienced. The difference is that wind turbines in those countries are coated with thin layers of carbon fiber which can be heated to prevent icing.
(A photo widely circulated on social this week claimed that it was a helicopter de-icing a wind turbine in Texas when it actually showed a helicopter doing a de-icing test on a windfarm in Sweden during the winter of 2014.)
Based on both the California and Texas blackouts, it appears that there is a pattern emerging with anti-renewable energy forces quickly blaming renewable energy as the cause for blackouts and use it to claim that more reliable forms of energy production are needed. At the same time, another pattern is emerging that the true source of blackouts is the continued failure of fossil fuel power plants.
St. Johnsbury, Vt.