Ann Arbor (Informed Comment) – Kristoffer Tigue at Inside Climate News reports that climate change made the brutal heat wave assaulting Texas worse, but that the state’s renewable power sources have helped keep the air conditioners running. Temperatures are predicted to stay over 100°F this week, with a slight break owing to a thunderstorm system. The heat wave is also affecting Mexico.
The heat index numbers, which combine the temperature with the humidity reading, are truly horrific, with some towns along the Gulf of Mexico seeing a heat index of 125 F. Scientists have discovered that a temperature of 122°F along with 80% humidity, i.e. a heat index of 160 F is fatal to human beings. A heat index of 125 F. is only very, very dangerous and militates against doing much work outside. Humans cool down by sweating, but that doesn’t work in high heat and humidity, so they can’t get cool and get heat stroke.
A study by Climate Central found that climate change increased the likelihood of the Texas heat wave by a factor of five.
J. David Goodman at the New York Times points out that solar power installations have doubled in Texas since the beginning of the year, and are set to double again by the end of 2023.
(Juan says that this development comes in part from the incentives in Biden’s Inflation Reduction Act for renewables and in part from Biden’s decision to lift the bar on importing panels from places like Vietnam that had been put in place under Trump.)
At the moment, solar is generating 15% of the electricity used by Texans. For the year, that percentage is 7% so far, with 31% from wind. Given the heat dome, they are running their air conditioners heavily. But the legacy power plants have sometimes gone off line. A nuclear plant was inoperable for a few days, and then a coal plant went out.
Solar power wanes, of course, in the evening. But luckily, by around 9 pm the wind typically picks up, so wind turbines provide power at night. Even Texas’ energy company, ERCOT admits that battery power is among the means they have to keep the grid stable during this transition.
Tigue also pointed out that much of the slack was immediately made up with battery storage. And what filled up the batteries? Texas’s renewables. Wind/ Water/ Solar/ Battery can provide 100% of our electricity needs now. The problem is that most states haven’t installed enough battery back-up. The Republican refrain that renewables are unreliable is a typical Big Lie. With batteries, they can be quite reliable.
Gov. Greg Abbot, an inveterate liar in the back pocket of Big Carbon, blamed the 2021 energy outages during a cold spell on wind turbines freezing up. Investigations showed that the wind turbines did fine. It was the fossil gas plants that froze up.
Luke Metzger at Environment Texas explains that Republicans in the Texas legislature introduced a raft of bills this spring aiming to slap high extra fees and disincentives on wind and solar energy in the state. Luckily, he says, the worst measures did not get enough votes to pass. This time. One bill centered on building $10 billion worth of new fossil gas plants, which would be much more expensive than solar/ wind/ battery and would also contribute to the global heating that caused the heat dome in the first place.
Burning fossil gas puts carbon dioxide, a heat-trapping gas, into the atmosphere. It prevents the heat of sun rays that strike the earth from easily radiating back out into space at the rate they did before the Industrial Revolution. Unless humanity stops producing CO2 by 2050, there is a danger we will make our climate chaotic and present people in places like Texas with severe challenges.
So the Texas Republicans now want to kill off the only thing that is helping Texans survive this heat dome– renewable energy and battery storage. One question, though, is whether the federal subsidies and the constant fall in price per kilowatt hour of wind and solar will outweigh any advantages the corrupt GOP tries to give fossil gas. Another question is how long Texans will go on putting these clowns into the state legislature, who want to kill us all with their CO2?