No, frozen wind turbines aren’t the main culprit for Texas’ power outages

A wind farm in North Texas. (Credit: Marjorie Kamys Cotera for The Texas Tribune)
A wind farm in North Texas. (Credit: Marjorie Kamys Cotera for The Texas Tribune)

Frozen wind turbines in Texas caused some conservative state politicians to declare Tuesday that the state was relying too much on renewable energy. But in reality, the lost wind power makes up only a fraction of the reduction in power-generating capacity that has brought outages to millions of Texans across the state during a major winter storm.

An official with the Electric Reliability Council of Texas said Tuesday afternoon that 16 gigawatts of renewable energy generation, mostly wind generation, was offline. Nearly double that, 30 gigawatts, had been lost from thermal sources, which includes gas, coal and nuclear energy.

“Texas is a gas state,” said Michael Webber, an energy resources professor at the University of Texas at Austin.

While Webber said all of Texas’ energy sources share blame for the power crisis, the natural gas industry is most notably producing significantly less power than normal.

“Gas is failing in the most spectacular fashion right now,” Webber said.

Dan Woodfin, a senior director at ERCOT, echoed that sentiment Tuesday.

“It appears that a lot of the generation that has gone offline today has been primarily due to issues on the natural gas system,” he said during a Tuesday call with reporters.

Still, some have focused their blame on wind power.