Winter Storm Leaves Texans in the Cold and Dark, Sparking Political Debate on Renewable Energy
This week, a relentless winter storm pummeled through parts of the southern and central U.S., causing people to crank their electric heating systems. In Texas, the energy demand became too high for its electric grid, forcing the state to begin rolling blackouts on Monday, leaving more than four million Texans in the cold and dark, The New York Times reported.
So far, analysts say the grid system failed due to high electricity demand, pushing grid operators into worst-case scenarios, The New York Times reported. Other causes for the failed grid included fuel shortages as gas-fired power plants went offline while demand increased, and frozen wind turbines.
Yet while some experts used the dire conditions to urge the state to adopt more climate-resilient energy systems, a few conservative commentators used the example of frozen wind turbines to encourage distrust of renewable energy systems in a state largely dependent on natural gas.
"Texas is frozen solid as folks are left w/ no power to stay safe & warm," Steve Daines, a Republican U.S. Senator from Montana, tweeted Tuesday. "This is a perfect example of the need for reliable energy sources like natural gas & coal."
Texas is frozen solid as folks are left w/ no power to stay safe & warm. This is a perfect example of the need fo… https://t.co/Tktn0F89t4— Steve Daines (@Steve Daines)1613492364.0
According to The Electric Reliability Council of Texas (ERCOT), which represents 90 percent of the state's electric load, wind turbine outages were responsible for less than 13 percent of Texas' lost generation. The majority of the power outages can instead be attributed to coal and gas, a local news outlet reported.
The Montana senator's tweet included a viral image of a helicopter spraying liquid to defrost a frozen wind turbine. According to the image's caption, fossil fuels powered the helicopter while the liquid it sprayed contained them. "Keep that in mind when thinking how 'green' windmills are," Rep. Lauren Boebert from Colorado tweeted, gaining thousands of retweets, Earther reported. This same image has been shared by Luke Legate, a prominent oil and gas consultant, Earther added, although it is misleading.
While helicopters are used to defrost wind turbines, the image is from Sweden in 2014, not present-day Texas, said Brian Kahn, managing editor of Earther. The photo is originally from a Swedish study on de-icing wind turbines using hot water. Now the image is being used "to argue against clean energy in the U.S," Kahn wrote. "It's a rather silly claim."
Wind turbines in Texas did indeed fail during the frigid winter temperatures, losing about 4.5 gigawatts of capacity according to The New York Times. But as of Monday afternoon, 26 of the 34 gigawatts of ERCOT's grid that went offline were from thermal sources such as gas and coal, The New Republic reported.
Cold temperatures are becoming less common due to climate change. But research suggests that as the Arctic warms, the jet stream will weaken, sending cold temperatures farther south, The New York Times reported. As a result, Texans are asking how their energy system can be more resilient to a changing climate.
Solutions include heaters that can help turbines operate in winter storms, on-site oil storage for gas plants and backup power plants for emergencies. These strategies could make Texas' electric grid more resilient to severe weather caused by climate change, The New York Times reported. But baseless skepticism toward renewable energy will not make the transition any easier.
"That type of work and serious conversations about how to end our grids' reliance on fossil fuels — which, just to be clear, are severely underperforming during the Texas blackout — are vital moving forward," Kahn wrote in Earther. "Misinformation and whataboutism to score lazy political points as a humanitarian emergency unfolds are not."
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Wisdom the mōlī, or Laysan albatross, is the oldest wild bird known to science at the age of at least 70. She is also, as of February 1, a new mother.
<div id="dadb2" class="rm-shortcode" data-rm-shortcode-id="aa2ad8cb566c9b4b6d2df2693669f6f9"><blockquote class="twitter-tweet twitter-custom-tweet" data-twitter-tweet-id="1357796504740761602" data-partner="rebelmouse"><div style="margin:1em 0">🚨Cute baby alert! Wisdom's chick has hatched!!! 🐣😍 Wisdom, a mōlī (Laysan albatross) and world’s oldest known, ban… https://t.co/Nco050ztBA</div> — USFWS Pacific Region (@USFWS Pacific Region)<a href="https://twitter.com/USFWSPacific/statuses/1357796504740761602">1612558888.0</a></blockquote></div>
By Hui Hu
Winter is supposed to be the best season for wind power – the winds are stronger, and since air density increases as the temperature drops, more force is pushing on the blades. But winter also comes with a problem: freezing weather.
Comparing rime ice and glaze ice shows how each changes the texture of the blade. Gao, Liu and Hu, 2021, CC BY-ND
Ice buildup changes air flow around the turbine blade, which can slow it down. The top photos show ice forming after 10 minutes at different temperatures in the Wind Research Tunnel. The lower measurements show airflow separation as ice accumulates. Icing Research Tunnel of Iowa State University, CC BY-ND
While traditional investment in the ocean technology sector has been tentative, growth in Israeli maritime innovations has been exponential in the last few years, and environmental concern has come to the forefront.
theDOCK aims to innovate the Israeli maritime sector. Pexels<p>The UN hopes that new investments in ocean science and technology will help turn the tide for the oceans. As such, this year kicked off the <a href="https://www.oceandecade.org/" target="_blank" rel="noopener noreferrer">United Nations Decade of Ocean Science for Sustainable Development (2021-2030)</a> to galvanize massive support for the blue economy.</p><p>According to the World Bank, the blue economy is the "sustainable use of ocean resources for economic growth, improved livelihoods, and jobs while preserving the health of ocean ecosystem," <a href="https://www.sciencedirect.com/science/article/pii/S0160412019338255#b0245" target="_blank" rel="noopener noreferrer">Science Direct</a> reported. It represents this new sector for investments and innovations that work in tandem with the oceans rather than in exploitation of them.</p><p>As recently as Aug. 2020, <a href="https://www.reutersevents.com/sustainability/esg-investors-slow-make-waves-25tn-ocean-economy" target="_blank" rel="noopener noreferrer">Reuters</a> noted that ESG Investors, those looking to invest in opportunities that have a positive impact in environmental, social and governance (ESG) issues, have been interested in "blue finance" but slow to invest.</p><p>"It is a hugely under-invested economic opportunity that is crucial to the way we have to address living on one planet," Simon Dent, director of blue investments at Mirova Natural Capital, told Reuters.</p><p>Even with slow investment, the blue economy is still expected to expand at twice the rate of the mainstream economy by 2030, Reuters reported. It already contributes $2.5tn a year in economic output, the report noted.</p><p>Current, upward <a href="https://www.ecowatch.com/-innovation-blue-economy-2646147405.html" target="_self">shifts in blue economy investments are being driven by innovation</a>, a trend the UN hopes will continue globally for the benefit of all oceans and people.</p><p>In Israel, this push has successfully translated into investment in and innovation of global ports, shipping, logistics and offshore sectors. The "Startup Nation," as Israel is often called, has seen its maritime tech ecosystem grow "significantly" in recent years and expects that growth to "accelerate dramatically," <a href="https://itrade.gov.il/belgium-english/how-israel-is-becoming-a-port-of-call-for-maritime-innovation/" target="_blank" rel="noopener noreferrer">iTrade</a> reported.</p><p>Driving this wave of momentum has been rising Israeli venture capital hub <a href="https://www.thedockinnovation.com/" target="_blank" rel="noopener noreferrer">theDOCK</a>. Founded by Israeli Navy veterans in 2017, theDOCK works with early-stage companies in the maritime space to bring their solutions to market. The hub's pioneering efforts ignited Israel's maritime technology sector, and now, with their new fund, theDOCK is motivating these high-tech solutions to also address ESG criteria.</p><p>"While ESG has always been on theDOCK's agenda, this theme has become even more of a priority," Nir Gartzman, theDOCK's managing partner, told EcoWatch. "80 percent of the startups in our portfolio (for theDOCK's Navigator II fund) will have a primary or secondary contribution to environmental, social and governance (ESG) criteria."</p><p>In a company presentation, theDOCK called contribution to the ESG agenda a "hot discussion topic" for traditional players in the space and their boards, many of whom are looking to adopt new technologies with a positive impact on the planet. The focus is on reducing carbon emissions and protecting the environment, the presentation outlines. As such, theDOCK also explicitly screens candidate investments by ESG criteria as well.</p><p>Within the maritime space, environmental innovations could include measures like increased fuel and energy efficiency, better monitoring of potential pollution sources, improved waste and air emissions management and processing of marine debris/trash into reusable materials, theDOCK's presentation noted.</p>
theDOCK team includes (left to right) Michal Hendel-Sufa, Head of Alliances, Noa Schuman, CMO, Nir Gartzman, Co-Founder & Managing Partner, and Hannan Carmeli, Co-Founder & Managing Partner. Dudu Koren<p>theDOCK's own portfolio includes companies like Orca AI, which uses an intelligent collision avoidance system to reduce the probability of oil or fuel spills, AiDock, which eliminates the use of paper by automating the customs clearance process, and DockTech, which uses depth "crowdsourcing" data to map riverbeds in real-time and optimize cargo loading, thereby reducing trips and fuel usage while also avoiding groundings.</p><p>"Oceans are a big opportunity primarily because they are just that – big!" theDOCK's Chief Marketing Officer Noa Schuman summarized. "As such, the magnitude of their criticality to the global ecosystem, the magnitude of pollution risk and the steps needed to overcome those challenges – are all huge."</p><p>There is hope that this wave of interest and investment in environmentally-positive maritime technologies will accelerate the blue economy and ESG investing even further, in Israel and beyond.</p>
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