Are icy wind turbines to blame for the massive power outage?

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Are icy wind turbines to blame for the massive power outage?


In the energy state of Texas, millions of people are without electricity and water. Conservative politicians have a simple explanation for this.


Candlelight dinner, involuntarily: In Texas, millions of people have to endure arctic temperatures without electricity.


© Photo: Ricardo B. Brazziell / AP
Candlelight dinner, involuntarily: In Texas, millions of people have to endure arctic temperatures without electricity.


Those who can take refuge in a hotel that has its own generator or sleep in the car with the engine running. Others make do in their desperation by leaving their gas stoves burning with the door open, or by lighting a fire in their apartment. «I know what carbon monoxide poisoning is», said a mother from Austin City «Wall Street Journal», «But what else should I do? I have a baby at home. ”

An extreme onset of winter for this area brought snow, ice and temperatures of down to minus 18 degrees to Texas at the beginning of the week – and plunged the second largest state in the USA into a crisis. More than two million people were still without electricity on Thursday morning after the electricity grid had collapsed in many places days ago. Elsewhere, the network operators had to cause rolling power outages to prevent a total collapse.

More than 21 dead

There were also problems with the water supply, especially in southern Texas. In the metropolis of Houston, many residents no longer had any running water. At least 21 people died as a result of the onset of winter.

The disaster touches the self-image of the energy state Texas, the largest oil and gas producer in the USA – and it has sparked a dispute about the causes. Republican Governor Greg Abbott first spoke about the crisis on Tuesday on a local TV station. There he said that all forms of energy production were affected by the cold – gas, coal, nuclear power, wind and solar energy. And he explicitly mentioned the gas that was frozen in the pipelines.

Just a few hours later, Abbott sounded very different. During an appearance on right-wing broadcaster Fox News, the governor settled on a single cause of the problem: it was renewable energies that had failed. “That proves that fossil fuels are necessary so that we can heat our houses in winter and cool them in summer.” And it also proves that the Green New Deal called for by the Democrats, which provides for the expansion of renewable energies, is “a deadly deal” – just as if the Republicans had not ruled Texas for decades.

Other conservative politicians and commentators directly blame the wind turbines, which in some places were frozen. “Those ugly wind turbines are the main reason we blackouts,” said Texas Secretary of Agriculture Sid Miller.


The cold burst water pipes - and gas pipelines also froze.


© Photo: AP
The cold burst water pipes – and gas pipelines also froze.


There has been a lot of criticism for this representation since then. According to the network operator Electric Reliability Council of Texas (Ercot) wind power makes up only 7 percent of the state’s electricity capacity in winter. In contrast, 80 percent come from gas, coal and nuclear power plants. According to Ercot, these energy sources accounted for almost two thirds of the failures because they are also directly affected by the Arctic cold: pipelines, pumps and drilling rigs are frozen, a nuclear power plant had to shut down due to the cold.

In addition to the collapse in production, there was a massive increase in demand for electricity. Millions of Texans installed electric heaters in their often poorly insulated homes, which contributed to the overloading of the electricity grid.

Lack of investment in the network

Many experts see the cause of the crisis not in individual energy sources, but in the lack of investment in the Texas power grid. This is not connected to the connection networks of the other states east and west of the Rocky Mountains. Texas wanted to avoid such federal government regulation. However, the state cannot tap into electricity from its neighbors in an emergency.

As early as 2011, the onset of winter paralyzed parts of the Texas power grid. Federal government experts then recommended that the member state make its production facilities winter-proof: pipelines should be heated and additional energy storage should be built. However, these recommendations were not implemented.

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