The overall power output of Texas has declined after nearly half of the state’s wind turbines were frozen in a winter storm over the weekend.
“Wind farms across the state generate up to a combined 25,100 megawatts of energy. But unusually moist winter conditions in West Texas brought on by the weekend’s freezing rain and historically low temperatures have iced many of those wind turbines to a halt,” the Austin American-Statesman reported. “As of Sunday morning, those iced turbines comprise 12,000 megawatts of Texas’ installed wind generation capacity, although those West Texas turbines don’t typically spin to their full generation capacity this time of year.”
Parts of Texas reportedly dipped down to 0F (−18C) over the weekend and the state continued to experience frigid temperatures on Monday morning. More than 2 million homes and businesses in the state have experienced power outages as a result. Officials have said that the strong winds from the storm have helped spin wind turbines at a faster rate in other parts of the state, helping to make up for some of the loss of power. Fox Business reported that the severe weather was also leading to a reduction in oil and gas production.
A helicopter running on fossil fuel spraying a chemical made from fossil fuels onto a wind turbine made with fossils fuels during an ice storm is awesome. pic.twitter.com/3HInc2qKb9
— Luke Legate (@lukelegate) February 15, 2021
“Wind power has been the fastest-growing source of energy in Texas’ power grid. In 2015 winder power generation supplied 11% of Texas’ energy grid. Last year it supplied 23% and overtook coal as the system’s second-largest source of energy after natural gas,” the Austin American-Statesman added. “The frozen turbines come as low temperatures strain the state’s power grid and force operators to call for immediate statewide conservation efforts, like unplugging non-essential appliances, turning down residential heaters and minimize use of electric lighting.”
Dan Woodfin, senior director of system operations for the Electric Reliability Council of Texas, called the situation a “unique winter storm that’s more widespread with lots of moisture in West Texas, where there’s a lot of times not a lot of moisture.”
President Joe Biden approved an emergency declaration for Texas on Sunday and “ordered federal assistance to supplement state and local response efforts due to the emergency conditions resulting from a severe winter storm beginning on February 11, 2021, and continuing,” according to a statement from the White House. “The President’s action authorizes the Department of Homeland Security, Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA), to coordinate all disaster relief efforts which have the purpose of alleviating the hardship and suffering caused by the emergency on the local population, and to provide appropriate assistance for required emergency measures, authorized under Title V of the Stafford Act, to save lives and to protect property and public health and safety, and to lessen or avert the threat of a catastrophe in all 254 Texas counties.”
“Specifically, FEMA is authorized to identify, mobilize, and provide at its discretion, equipment and resources necessary to alleviate the impacts of the emergency,” the statement added. “Emergency protective measures for mass care and sheltering and direct federal assistance will be provided at 75 percent federal funding.”
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