Winter storm Uri wipes out Texas power grids


Photo via Wikimedia Commons

Dallas sidewalk covered in snow.

   Due to the winter storm, Uri, Texas has been struggling with power loss and grid failure. This has devastated many people’s homes and lives, and the cause of this is more complicated than it seems at face value.

   Current popular belief seems to lie in the idea that the power shortage is mainly due to freezing wind turbines, and many right-leaning lawmakers and government officials are using this as a way to promote claims of the superiority of natural gas/oil and coal energy. 

   As Texas Congressman Dan Crenshaw states on Twitter “This is what happens when you force the grid to rely in part on wind as a power source. When weather conditions get bad as they did this week, intermittent renewable energy like wind isn’t there when you need it.”

   The power shortage is due to many different factors, not just wind turbines failing to function. In the northern parts of the United States, wind turbines and other green energy sources function just fine in very cold temperatures. This is because these turbines are built for cold weather. They include cold temperature steels and internal heating devices that prevent snow and ice from collecting on the blades and other components. As Texas is usually warm, extreme cold was not considered when building these turbines.

   Wind turbines aren’t the only power source facing issues, though. According to national geographic, “The severe cold at some power plants interfered with the proper operation of sensors, hydraulic lines, and other electromechanical support equipment, resulting in some plants shutting themselves down.” 

   In Texas and other usually warmer areas, power plants are generally kept outside and exposed to the air to keep heat from building up. In generally cooler areas, plants are located indoors because cold weather is expected.

   When combining a shortage of power with a higher demand for power, such as people turning on their heaters more, a state-wide disaster will result. Even if there was enough power to go around, trees and their limbs are falling and landing on power lines due to the weight of ice and softening powers of moisture in the soil and branches.