The unprecedented storms and blackouts in Texas earlier this year demonstrated the power of renewable energy sources during cold weather events.
The cold Texas weather resulted in burst pipes and freezing pipelines, overloading the power grid and causing millions of electricity to fail. This widened the gap between supply and demand, causing electricity prices to skyrocket.
A report by the Electric Reliability Council of Texas (ERCOT) found that the blackout was mainly caused by a decline in thermal generation, resulting in a shortage of around 31 gigawatts of capacity. Wind, however, led to a deficit of only around 2 GW.
Meanwhile, according to the same study, solar energy was producing even more electricity than expected. These weather conditions tested Texas’s 17 solar panels in ways they had never seen before – and they rose to the challenge.
This is because, contrary to some popular misinformation, solar panel performance is not affected by the cold. In fact, like other electronics, solar panels work even better in cold temperatures. This allows the panels to generate more voltage, which means that they usually deliver more electricity when it is cold than when it is warmer.
I can confirm this fact firsthand. When the Derecho hit my Logan County area a few years ago, the long-term blackouts we experienced led my husband and I to opt for battery-backed solar power. My panels work perfectly in winter, even when it snows. Solar panels absorb energy from the sun’s light, not its heat.
A more robust mix of available power options could save West Virginians a lot of money and provide us all with more reliable power supplies.
I hope our West Virginia leaders will see this as a case study of how we can improve our own attitudes and policies about renewable energy. We need to diversify our energy portfolio in Mountain State. It not only contributes to our energy security, but also offers attractive opportunities for job creation and economic development.