“In Nebraska, a rolling blackout is absolutely not acceptable,” said Nebraska state Sen. Dan Hughes.
But a rolling blackout is the current reality of thousands of Nebraskans on Tuesday. Hughes said power companies are getting their monies worth of renewable energy.
“Wind and solar is not a reliable source of energy,” Hughes said. “Reliability has to be number one.”
Nebraska Public Power District’s CEO Tom Kent said the issue is multi-layered. Kent said coal and natural gas energy can’t maintain the current demand, and wind isn’t blowing heavily. The CEO explained when the wind is blowing, wind power makes a major difference in the grid.
“When the loads are lower you can see wind serving upwards of 60 to 70 percent of the load and footprint during certain hours,” Kent said. “You can also see during certain hours where the wind doesn’t blow and it’s serving a very small percentage of the footprint.”
Kent said the power district can’t rely on any one resource alone in the current freezing conditions, conventional energy like natural gas and coal are seeing issues too.
“When you’ve got temperatures down to negative 31, coal piles can freeze, water pipes can burst, natural gas pipelines seize up, trees fall on transmission lines, wind turbines get ice on their blades,” said Lincoln Electric System board member Lucas Sabalka.
Sabalka said companies must find an alternative, and he said small nuclear technology could be an option.
“There are trials underway [for small nuclear technology] and it looks like those may start entering the market in the next decade,” Sabalka said. “But I wouldn’t put bets on any one technology.”