The unprecedented storms and power failures Texas earlier this year actually served as a testament to the strengths of renewable energy sources in cold-weather events.
The cold-weather conditions in Texas led to bursting pipes and freezing pipelines, overwhelming the electric grid and knocking out power for millions. This widened the gap between supply and demand, causing electricity prices to skyrocket.
A report by the Electric Reliability Council of Texas (ERCOT) determined that the power shortfall was primarily caused by a drop in thermal generation, which lead to a shortage of approximately 31 gigawatts of capacity. Wind, by comparison, led to a shortfall of only about 2 GW.
Meanwhile, according to that same study, solar produced even greater quantities of power than was expected. These weather conditions tested Texas’ 17 solar facilities in a way they had never seen before — and they met the challenge.
This is because, contrary to some of the misinformation being circulated, the performance of solar panels is not affected by the cold. In fact, similar to other electronics, solar panels work even better in cold temperatures. It allows the panels to produce more voltage, which means they generally yield more electricity in the cold than in warmer temperatures.
I can attest to this fact firsthand. When the derecho came through my area in Logan County a few years ago, the long-term power outages we experienced led my husband and I to make the decision to go solar with battery backup. My panels work in the winter without fail, even when it’s snowing. Solar panels absorb energy from the sun’s light, not its warmth.
Having a more robust mix of energy options available could save West Virginians a lot of money and provide more reliable power for all of us.
I hope our leaders in West Virginia will look to this as a case study of how we may better our own attitudes and policies around renewables. We must diversify our energy portfolio in the Mountain State. Not only will it add to our energy security, but it offers attractive possibilities for job creation and economic development.