Shortly after the winter storm in February that caused statewide power outages, officials estimated the death toll near 60. In the last month, that figure has risen to 111 – nearly double the previous estimate and 43 higher than Hurricane Harvey which killed 68.
Not Just Hypothermia
The New York Times reported Representative Joaquin Castro, an Austin Democrat, as saying, “It’s worse than anyone could have imagined.
“Douglas Loveday, a spokesman with the state health department, said that it had taken investigators weeks to link the additional deaths to the cold weather and the accompanying storm,” said the Times.
State officials said that while most winter storm victims died from hypothermia, other died from:
- Vehicle accidents
- Medical equipment failures
- Chronic illnesses that were suddenly worsened
- Lack of home oxygen
- Carbon monoxide poisoning
Search for Solutions
As the death toll has climbed from the winter storm, the search for causes of the grid failure continues. The Times article continued, “The storm disrupted the power infrastructure, which, officials said, was unprepared for such intense winter conditions.”
The big questions:
- “Why were we unprepared?”
- “Who’s at fault?”
- “How can we prevent a recurrence?”
Officials have called for an overhaul of the state’s power system. But aside from some symbolic firings of ERCOT board members, no one to date has made hard decisions about becoming part of a larger grid or winterizing equipment that failed. Some may be difficult to winterize given current technology.
Texas Power Sources
According to ERCOT, Texas gets its power from five sources: solar (2%), nuclear (11%), coal (18%), wind (23%), and natural gas (46%).
Ice, for instance, can form on wind turbine blades, severely impairing efficiency. This article in ScienceDirect describes the problem. “Ice accretion on the blades of a wind turbine can lead to turbine shutdown, power loss and damage to turbine components. To prevent ice formation on wind turbine blades, an ice sensor integrated with an ice mitigation system is required. The ice sensor can be used with a de-icer on the blade surface. However, the current ice sensing and de-icing technologies are inefficient and integrated systems need appreciable improvement.”
It ain’t easy being green.
Posted by Bob Rehak on 3/26/2021
1305 Days after Hurricane Harvey