Could Solar Have Reduced the Impact of the 2021 Texas Freeze?
October 12, 2022
With massive strides in solar technology over the centuries, solar power has become a mainstream solution for many everyday energy needs. But homeowners and businesses can also use solar power in emergency situations, such as power outages.
Winter storm Uri, also called the 2021 Texas freeze, not only knocked out the state’s power grid but also led to 246 deaths. The victims of the Texas freeze spanned 77 counties and ranged from infants to centenarians. If Texas had more widespread solar energy use, the death toll could have been significantly lower.
So, could solar energy have lessened the impact of the 2021 Texas freeze? What factors led to the disaster? We’ll outline the probable causes and note how solar could make a difference.
[Related: Do Solar Panels Work in Winter?]
What Caused the Texas Power Outages?
Although a variety of issues led to the power outages, three main factors caused them:
- High electricity demand and insufficient power supply
- The stand-alone electric grid
- A utility infrastructure unprepared to handle the cold
High Demand, Low Supply
As the polar vortex steadily worsened, more and more Texans started raising their thermostats to combat the cold. The Electric Reliability Council of Texas (ERCOT), which oversees the Texas power grid, claimed it was prepared for increased demand. But power plants still weren’t producing enough energy to meet Texans’ power needs.
This high-demand, low-supply situation led to cascading outages in an attempt to reduce overload on the utility’s infrastructure.
Stand-Alone Electric Grid
Interconnected grids allow a state’s generated power to flow to another state when demand is high. This serves as a buffer to prevent scenarios like the 2021 Texas freeze.
However, Texas has a stand-alone grid in an attempt to keep energy prices stable and low. This prevented the state from drawing power from neighboring states, and as a result, led to widespread outages.
Infrastructure Unprepared for the Cold
Texas’s infrastructure simply isn’t equipped to handle low temperatures. And because extreme wintry conditions are rare, utility companies have little incentive to outfit infrastructure for extended freezes.
This made power plants unable to generate energy during the freeze, and transmission lines unable to, well, transmit it. As a result, Texas utilities were unable to distribute energy to communities.
And considering that 51% of the state’s electricity comes from gas, millions of Texans lost power when the gas lines froze.
Solar Energy Could Have Protected Texans
On a broad note, Texas has some eco-friendly power systems in place.
Wind turbines, for example, generate 25% of Texas’ electricity, which is a sizable percentage. But frozen turbines can’t generate energy, and frozen power lines can’t transmit it even if it were generated.
Ultimately, reliance on fossil fuels largely led to the devastating 2021 outages due to the state’s power plants inability to generate power during the freeze. By investing in grid-scale solar, along with home solar panels, Texans can generate more power and ease demand on the grid.
Solar panel systems, generators, backup power and solar batteries are just a few options that can provide power during emergencies. Energy independence and less reliance on the grid could have taken some of the distress out of the 2021 freeze — and saved lives.
Takeaways From the 2021 Texas Freeze
The 2021 Texas freeze was a crushing blow to the state and its population. The event highlighted a major problem in Texas’s electrical infrastructure and led to hundreds of deaths.
But now, Texans, Texas businesses and the Texas legislature can learn from the disaster and make better decisions in the future when it comes to generating, transmitting and storing energy.
City and statewide solar rebates and incentives, as well as the federal solar investment tax credit (which was recently raised to 30%), make it easier to go solar. More reliable energy solutions provide a higher rate of energy independence and allow the state to better protect its citizens from future climate-related catastrophes.
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Featured image via Pixabay