Much of the country, including Louisiana and Texas, are in the grips of an Arctic blast that has brought a nasty winter storm. So far as of writing, at least four are dead and nearly 4 million Texans and over 35,000 Louisianians are without power. Rolling blackouts have been implemented in several states, including Texas, and have not been ruled in other states, including Louisiana, in order to conserve power.
These winter storms, along with California’s rolling blackouts that were implemented last summer, should be a wake-up call to anyone who is concerned about our electrical grid. We need to invest in both electrical generation and infrastructure or rolling blackouts are going to become part of a new normal.
One of the culprits in both California and Texas is the explosion in the use of less reliable green energy sources such as wind and solar. California’s blackouts were largely caused by a failure in some of its wind generation as the wind stopped blowing. Andy Hogue points out that Texas’s blackouts were partially caused by the freezing of over half of the state’s wind turbines.
Americans generally want and need their electricity to be cheap, clean, and reliable. Wind and solar only meet one of those criteria.
Another major problem we have is that our electrical infrastructure cannot meet present demand, let alone future demand. The winter storm has brought natural gas production to a halt and frozen gas lines.
It is also clear the government and environmentalists are going to push electric cars as the transportation of the future. One estimate is that the nation will have to generate 25% more energy to power the growing electric car fleet.
Long story short, if we don’t want rolling blackouts to become part of a new normal, we need to build more powerplants and upgrade our transmission infrastructure. More importantly, it needs to meet the criteria of cheap, clean, and reliable. It will need to be a mix of not just wind and solar, but also natural gas, clean coal, and nuclear.
I’ll leave with this tweet from a nuclear reactor operator that is very relevant to this discussion.
It was -23F last night. I worked a 12 hr shift at a nuclear plant that put 1200 MW on the grid all night. You want green electricity that will keep the lights on all the time? Has to be nuclear, until we figure out something better.
— Bryan (@NuclearBryan) February 15, 2021
Meanwhile, try and stay warm! My sympathies go out to everyone without power. Let’s work together to try and make it even rarer.
Edited on 1/17/2021 to show the freezing of wind turbines were partially instead of being largely responsible for Texas’s power outages