What We Learned from the February Texas Blackouts
Updated: Feb 19, 2021
It’s true, solar panels don’t generate electricity well in a snowstorm. While blocking out the direct sunlight, heavy winter conditions can also cause machinery malfunctions in wind, coal, gas, and nuclear power generating facilities.
The grid as a whole may be prone to failure as a result of extreme conditions, and we feel that it is dangerous to criticize any energy decision while millions of people are without power.
With boil water notices in cities like Austin and Fort Worth, electricity and gas demand spikes have caused complete and partial system failures. This has resulted in days of unreliable energy across the state.
Here is what People are Saying
"Demand really spiked both in the electricity and the natural gas systems at the same time as a lot of the generators were not able to operate because of those cold conditions…But a lot of grids are susceptible to really, really major failures when they are this far outside of design conditions.”
“About 56 percent of Texas' energy comes from natural gas, just under 24 percent comes from wind, 19 percent from coal, and almost 9 percent from nuclear energy.”
“Brutal temperatures have caused vital equipment at natural gas and coal-fired power plants (which account for far more of the state’s electricity than wind) to freeze up, and oil and gas production have been hampered.”
"Wind was operating almost as well as expected"
-Sam Newell, head of the electricity at Brattle Group, an energy consulting company that has advised Texas on its power grid.
So what is the solution?
Dispersed energy production? Increased storage infrastructure? Microgrid development?
No one knows the complete solution right now, but what we do know is that Texas’s marginal solar capacity (1.1% of the total electricity generated in 2019) is not to blame.
The Case for Solar
As a solar company in Colorado, we don’t want to overstep our state line, but we would like to quickly identify some of the benefits of increasing solar capacity.
Solar energy can be generated anywhere the sun shines, even on cloudy days
High-quality solar panels can run more efficiently in cold weather.
Snow clears dust and debris that has built up on solar panels.
Utility and small-scale solar storage options are becoming increasingly affordable
The crisis in Texas has taught us that generating energy in extreme conditions can be difficult, especially when people are relying on it the most. Every power source has its limitations, and we feel that it is dangerous to blame renewable energy in a time of crisis.
As solar is a growing industry, halting its development will not only increase our reliance on fossil fuels, but it will also cause millions of people to miss out on the cheapest form of energy, ever.