The storms and unprecedented power outages in Texas earlier this year actually testified to the strengths of renewable energy sources during cold weather events.
Cold weather conditions in Texas led to bursting pipes and freezing pipelines, submerging the power grid and cutting off electricity for millions of people. This widened the gap between supply and demand, causing electricity prices to soar.
A report by the Electric Reliability Council of Texas (ERCOT) determined that the lack of electricity was primarily caused by a drop in thermal generation, resulting in a shortage of around 31 gigawatts of capacity. Wind, by comparison, led to a shortfall of only about 2 GW.
Meanwhile, according to the same study, solar produced even greater amounts of energy than expected. These weather conditions tested Texas’ 17 solar installations in a way they had never seen before – and they rose to the challenge.
This is because, contrary to some of the misinformation that circulates, the performance of solar panels is not affected by the cold. In fact, like other electronic devices, solar panels perform even better in cold weather. This allows the panels to produce more voltage, which means they typically produce more electricity in the colder than in warmer temperatures.
I can attest to this fact firsthand. When the derecho arrived in my area of Logan County a few years ago, the long term power outages we experienced led my husband and I to make the decision to switch to solar power with battery backup. . My panels work flawlessly in winter, even when it is snowing. Solar panels absorb energy from sunlight, not its heat.
Having a more robust mix of energy options available could save Western Virginians a lot of money and provide more reliable energy for all of us.
I hope our leaders in West Virginia will see this as a case study of how we can improve our own attitudes and policies around renewable energy. We need to diversify our energy portfolio in Mountain State. Not only will this add to our energy security, but it will offer exciting opportunities for job creation and economic development.