Contrary to claims made by green energy profiteers and apologists in the mainstream media, the failure of wind and solar power was primarily responsible for the widespread power outages in Texas during the polar frost that hit the state last week.
While the depth and length of the freezing temperatures were highly unusual for much of Texas, they were not historically unprecedented. The Texas power grid could have handled the polar frost as it did in the past.
Before the politics of climate alarmism and abrogation culture got their ugly heads upright, any engineer would have frankly said that wind and solar power are unsuitable for a large power grid because they depend on weather conditions.
A large power grid consists of two segments: base load power and peak power. Base load power is the minimum amount of energy required for normal daily operation and requires a fairly constant flow of power. Coal, nuclear and, to a lesser extent, natural gas have met Texas' base load needs for the past century as they operate full-time.
Peak power is the extra power needed when the system is exposed to unusual demand, usually in July and August in Texas when the air conditioning is spinning up sharply. Natural gas is typically used to provide peak power because it can be turned on and off quickly when needed.
Wind and sun can either be used for the base load or for the peak power. Wind turbines only generate electricity when the wind blows between certain speeds and the electricity they generate fluctuates constantly. Solar does not provide electricity at night or when solar panels are covered with snow or ice and only reduces electricity on cloudy days and during storms. A power system that depends on weather conditions is a poor choice.
Wind and solar power now make up around 28 percent of the power supply in Texas. This increase was not due to market demand but rather due to politics. Legislators required that a minimum amount of electricity sold in the Texan electricity market be from wind or solar power, regardless of the reliability issues they introduce into the grid. In addition, subsidies from the federal, state and local governments encouraged wind and sun to continue growing beyond the minimum amount set by the state.
The subsidies, tax credits and tax breaks allow wind and solar producers to sell electricity on the Texan market at a price below the cost of production and delivery. As a result, several base load coal-fired power plants, which have thousands of megawatts of electricity capacity, have been closed.
Some reports argue that wind and solar power cannot be blamed for the widespread power outages that occurred during the recent polar frost. They claim that when the power first went out, only a small percentage of wind and solar production went offline. This is true, but it lacks context.
Data from the Texas Electric Reliability Council shows that wind and sun provided 58 percent of Texas electricity five days before the first snowflake fell. But clouds formed, temperatures dropped, and the wind temporarily halted, resulting in more than half of the wind and solar power failing within three days and never returning during the storm as problems worsened and Frozen turbines and solar panels covered with snow and ice.
Although natural gas, coal and nuclear power initially wore off when the wind and sun failed, these energy sources faced problems of their own after the storm. Some gas lines froze, some appliances failed, some power lines snapped, and transformers broke. During the storm, more coal, natural gas and nuclear power failed than wind and sun, but only because the wind and sun were offline before the storm.
The result: I and more than 8 million Texans in more than 4 million households have lost light, electricity and heat. Temperatures in my house dropped into the 1940s. The first night I went through all of the heating oil in the old-fashioned lamps that I keep because of intermittent tornadoes for outages.
Like wind and solar energy, the weather is volatile. For this reason, no state should ever rely on wind and solar energy as an essential part of its electricity supply. As Texas demonstrated last week and California demonstrates each summer, it means bringing catastrophic lifelong failure to justice.
H. Sterling Burnett is a Senior Fellow on Energy and Environment at the Heartland Institute. This column was originally published on InsideSources.com.