Ebene News – AU – Texas energy crisis highlights challenges for renewable energy future

WASHINGTON – A devastating winter storm that plunged Texas into an electrical crisis offers warning signs for the US as the Biden administration seeks to prepare for a future in which severe weather extremes are a greater risk and America is powered almost entirely by renewables

Power generation is a challenge But an equally daunting task is storing energy from renewable energies for extreme events like the one in Texas

In Texas, at the center of a wave of blackouts in the southern and central parts of the US, the primary power grid has suffered a double blow from the deep freeze: an extraordinary demand for electricity as Texans tried to heat their homes and power plants that just weren’t producing electricity when people needed it most

Wind and solar, still relatively small slices of the state’s energy mix, played only a small role in the sudden power shortage, utility officials said

Yet the Texas crisis is a wake-up call that shows how US power infrastructure may not be fully prepared to absorb climate-related spikes in electricity demand The challenge is likely to become more deep as the US relies more on wind and solar power, said to be “intermittent” as they are subject to the vagaries of the weather and do not generate 24-hour electricity

Power grid regulators have said the US will need to develop vast supplies of energy storage – such as gigantic batteries – that rely on emerging technologies that have only recently started to become economical and feasible at large scale

“For batteries to play the ultimate back-up system, we’re so far from that, it’s no fun,” Jim Robb, CEO of North American Electric Reliability Corp, a regulator, said in a statement. interview “To truly achieve the vision we like to achieve, a highly carbon-free electrical system, you are going to have to deploy batteries in many orders of magnitude beyond what we currently have”

The North American Electric Reliability Corp and the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission announced Tuesday that they are launching a joint investigation into what went wrong to trigger such widespread blackouts in the South and Midwest As of the end of Tuesday, more than 35 million customers were without power, the vast majority in Texas, according to the following site’s power outage

The picture of what went wrong in Texas is incomplete But as some wind generators went offline as the turbines froze, the state’s largest grid, the Electric Reliability Council of Texas, said the shortage was due to a failure not of renewable sources but of traditional “thermal” sources: coal, nuclear and especially natural gas Energy experts said gas lines supplying gas plants may have frozen or that supply to power plants may have been limited, as gas was the priority for homes that depend on gas for heating

Utilities officials in Texas had predicted what they expected they might need in the event of a winter peak, taking into account the possibility of blackouts and reduced wind input The increase in demand during the storm exceeded the grid operator’s highest estimate by just over 67,000 megawatts needed for extreme peak load And 34,000 megawatts were taken offline, which reduced supply, said the Electric Reliability Council of Texas.

Texas produces more electricity than any other state, but only about a quarter comes from wind and solar power, according to data from the US Energy Information Fair. / p>

President Joe Biden, in an executive order he signed during his second week in office, set a goal of reducing carbon dioxide emissions from US power generation to zero. ‘by 2035, a goal that would require a rapid US move towards renewable energy sources and even move away from cleaner fossil fuels, like natural gas

Yet these fossil fuels also tend to be the benchmark sources for surplus and relief production, in part because they can be accelerated quite quickly. This includes ‘spinning reserve’ capacity, in which power plants are already online and can add electricity to the grid like a tap almost instantly as demand fluctuates.

Fossil fuel preservation supporters have used this flexibility to argue over reliability, with a Wall Street Journal editorial on Monday on the situation in Texas stating, “Here is the paradox of the left’s climate agenda: the less fossil fuels we use, the more we need “

But another emerging option could ensure reliability without forcing the US back to coal, gas and other carbon-intensive energy sources that contribute to climate change: energy storage, in which electricity produced from renewable sources can be stored and then released back to the grid when needed later

For years, excess electricity from power generation has been used to pump water behind dams, where it can be released and turned into hydropower on short notice, in effect transforming the system into a massive battery

More recently, the technology to build real batteries capable of storing energy on the scale needed to power a large grid has rapidly advanced in capacity and accessibility, with major projects underway. deployment in California and an ambitious plan in Saudi Arabia to power an entire station with what has been touted as the “world’s largest battery-powered storage center”

But these solutions are still only able to provide a tiny fraction of the energy consumption, and almost the entire supply chain to manufacture these storage units is overseas. In addition, traditional lithium-ion batteries, also used in electric vehicles, can pump electricity at their maximum power for only several hours at a time, far less than the long periods or even days that might be required for compensate for weather conditions peaks in demand

But the development of technologies, including hydrogen units and flow batteries, could start to fill some of the gaps as the US approaches 2035, the year the Biden administration says carbon emissions are expected. be eliminated from the power supply

Omar AI-Juburi, partner at Ernst & Young who consults on energy markets and grid technology, compared the rapid development of large-scale battery storage to that of solar panels, which for years were sky-high before costs fell dramatically From 2015 to 2018, the cost of storing batteries on a large scale fell by nearly 70%, the Energy Information Administration said

“Everything indicates that it will continue to increase capacity, decrease costs and become more commercially viable,” Al-Jaburi said. “Storage will not solve all your problems by 2035 or at any date, but it will be a major player “

Biden, as a nominee, included investments in battery storage as part of his proposal to spend $ 2 trillion to build a more modern, cleaner U’s Infrastructure His administration should look to the ambitious agenda this year as soon as its first spending priority, a Covid-19 relief program, is completed

“Building resilient and sustainable infrastructure capable of withstanding extreme weather conditions and a changing climate will play a critical role in creating millions of well-paying union jobs, creating energy savings clean and achieving the president’s goal of achieving a network zero future emissions by 2050, ”said White House spokesman Vedant Patel

While no weather event can be attributed to climate change alone, the deadly cold that struck Texas was the latest reminder of how extreme weather can push the delicate array of power generators and lines transmission that make up our electrical network beyond its breakdown point In California, extreme summer heat waves have distorted the system on the other side, forcing blackouts when record air conditioning demand exceeds the system or fear of starting wildfires if high winds lead utilities to shut down lines

While it is an extreme winter, not warmer temperatures, that is affecting Texas, some climate analysts believe climate change could also play a role in the intense cold and storms that ravage the southern part of the country. ‘US, a phenomenon that could continue or worsen Rising temperatures in the Arctic may decrease the air jet that acts as a kind of buffer for the polar vortex, preventing the freezing air from plunging south

But network operators can only plan for the spikes and surges they see coming, a task of analyzing past trends and extrapolating forecasts that is only getting more and more difficult, said Michael Craig, who teaches energy systems at the School for Environment at the University of Michigan and sustainability

“We are in a non-stationary world Climate change means it is not stationary,” said Craig “The past 40 years may not reflect what awaits the pike in the next 40 years “

Texas Power Outage, Texas Electric Reliability Council

Ebene News – UA – Texas power crisis highlights challenges for renewable energy future

Source: https://www.nbcnews.com/science/environment/texas-power-crisis-points-challenges-renewable-energy-future-rcna289