The power grid in Texas is a little bit under the weather.
A major heat wave has arrived just as the wind stopped blowing, creating a perfect storm for residents looking for relief from the blistering summer sun in the country’s second-largest state.
Wind power — a key source of electricity in Texas — is being sidelined just when the Lone Star State needs it most, with turbines generating less than a 10th of what they’re capable of.
A scorching heat wave is pushing the Texas grid to the brink. Power demand is surging as people crank up air conditioners. But meanwhile, wind speeds have fallen to extremely low levels, and that means the state’s fleet of turbines is at just 8% of their potential output.
The energy quagmire resulted in the state’s electric grid operator, the Electric Reliability Council of Texas (ERCOT), being forced to issue a “conservation alert” asking consumers to take measures to save energy between 2 and 8 p.m. on Monday to avoid blackouts. In effect, that meant telling people to refrain from using their appliances and turning down their A/C in triple digit heat.
Fortunately for Texans, the grid held up, thanks in no small part to voluntary cutbacks from industrial power users and bitcoin miners in the state. However, the episode highlights the inherent risk involved in an energy transition devoted to weather-dependent renewables above all other resources, a strategy leaders here in Colorado seem quite keen on pursuing.
Lest anyone be tempted to chalk up the Texas grid strain to an insufficient commitment to rolling out renewables, here’s Bloomberg again to set the record straight:
Texas may be America’s oil and gas hub, but it’s also long been the country’s biggest wind-power state.
Doubling down on the deployment of renewable power generation cannot help you if an unexpected shift in weather can nearly bring the grid to its knees. Due consideration must be given to resource capacity factors when pursuing a reliable energy mix. Long term battery storage is not yet economical at scale, making an abundant supply of firm power from sources like natural gas or nuclear essential. Consumers must be able to continue powering their businesses and homes even on days where the thermostat begins to creep up.
If Colorado’s advocates of intermittent wind and solar power won’t acknowledge this fact, then its elected political leaders must. It truly is a matter of life and death.