Texas sets scene for Biden's defining battle

The Texas blackouts show what the US wind sector will have to deal with during the Biden years – and how to handle it.

Richard Heap
February 25, 2021
Texas sets scene for Biden's defining battle

“It is disgraceful to see the long-term antagonists of clean power… engaging in a politically opportunistic charade misleading Americans to promote an agenda that has nothing to do with restoring power to Texas communities.”

So said Heather Zichal, CEO of the American Clean Power Association, in response to allegations that frozen wind farms alone sparked blackouts in Texas last week which left four million people without electricity or heat.

We know that wind alone isn’t to blame.

The outages that followed the Arctic blast in Texas on 13th February were caused by a host of problems: 30GW of lost capacity from natural gas and coal plants; 16GW of lost renewables capacity; an outage at a nuclear power plant; and the fact Texas has a standalone power grid that can’t bring in electricity from other states to cope with very high demand.

Further investigation in the coming weeks will reveal where the blame lies. Undoubtedly, wind will be partly responsible. Iced-up turbine blades isn’t a great look. But we also know that wind usually finds itself in the crosshairs when fossil fuel fans are looking for someone to blame for blackouts. That means there will be unfair and untrue claims thrown in too.

Is the criticism as disgraceful as Zichal claims? Absolutely. But surprising? Not at all. The Texas blackouts show what the US wind sector will have to deal with during the Biden years – and how to handle it.

Blackout Biden

It is inevitable that President Biden's green honeymoon would end.

Biden became US president with a goal to make US electricity carbon-free by 2035. This is a huge target that has enthused wind and solar developers and led to them exploring ways to unlock investment for onshore and offshore developments in the coming years.

But the Texas blackouts have reminded companies of the challenges they’ll face in getting the legislation they need, and the onslaught of negative media they’ll face. Disasters of this scale can shape political and media debate for years.

We need only look at South Australia. In 2016, the state faced widespread blackouts as a result of storm damage to electricity transmission infrastructure but, as in Texas, it was the wind industry that was the initial target in the political blame game. The claims against wind have since been de-bunked, but these blackouts still cast a shadow over Australia’s energy debate.

This is a strong reminder of how incumbent fossil fuel companies and anti-renewable politicians will seek to muddy debate. It won’t matter that there was huge growth in Texas wind and solar under Republican leadership. These blackouts will only fuel warnings about ‘blackout Biden’ and his green plans.

The response from the wind industry should be threefold.

First, companies in the wind sector should do more to extol the virtues of wind and correct misinformation. For too long, it feels like wind companies have been too happy to let critics of the sector make the running, especially online, and spread lies about wind, ranging from cost and resilience to bird deaths and fire. No doubt these untruths have been fuelled by sections of the media. But wind is now too big a part of the energy mix to let this go.

The UK is a good example of progress on this issue.

Even five years ago, wind was being roundly derided by large sections of the UK media. Now, though, it feels like the tide is turning as more people accept the need for renewables and the financial benefits of offshore wind. You’ll never completely silence objectors, but you can still win people round.

Second, operators will need to consider the investments they make to keep turbines running in extreme heat or cold.

We understand why Texas developers wouldn’t tend to invest in blade de-icing systems of the type used in Scandinavia. It isn’t usually needed. But if climate change makes extremes of hot and cold more common, then this will add an extra pressure on operators to ensure their turbines keep running. It is an important investment for the long-term health of the sector.

And third, we must remember that these blackouts can lead to positives. In Australia, they kickstarted a major energy storage investment drive. Texas may see the same as resilience becomes a bigger concern. Maybe it will provide the impetus for fixing long-standing issues with US transmission systems.

The criticism may be disgraceful but, under Biden, it will be constant. What we see in Texas sets the scene for what could be his defining energy battle.

“It is disgraceful to see the long-term antagonists of clean power… engaging in a politically opportunistic charade misleading Americans to promote an agenda that has nothing to do with restoring power to Texas communities.”

So said Heather Zichal, CEO of the American Clean Power Association, in response to allegations that frozen wind farms alone sparked blackouts in Texas last week which left four million people without electricity or heat.

We know that wind alone isn’t to blame.

The outages that followed the Arctic blast in Texas on 13th February were caused by a host of problems: 30GW of lost capacity from natural gas and coal plants; 16GW of lost renewables capacity; an outage at a nuclear power plant; and the fact Texas has a standalone power grid that can’t bring in electricity from other states to cope with very high demand.

Further investigation in the coming weeks will reveal where the blame lies. Undoubtedly, wind will be partly responsible. Iced-up turbine blades isn’t a great look. But we also know that wind usually finds itself in the crosshairs when fossil fuel fans are looking for someone to blame for blackouts. That means there will be unfair and untrue claims thrown in too.

Is the criticism as disgraceful as Zichal claims? Absolutely. But surprising? Not at all. The Texas blackouts show what the US wind sector will have to deal with during the Biden years – and how to handle it.

Blackout Biden

It is inevitable that President Biden's green honeymoon would end.

Biden became US president with a goal to make US electricity carbon-free by 2035. This is a huge target that has enthused wind and solar developers and led to them exploring ways to unlock investment for onshore and offshore developments in the coming years.

But the Texas blackouts have reminded companies of the challenges they’ll face in getting the legislation they need, and the onslaught of negative media they’ll face. Disasters of this scale can shape political and media debate for years.

We need only look at South Australia. In 2016, the state faced widespread blackouts as a result of storm damage to electricity transmission infrastructure but, as in Texas, it was the wind industry that was the initial target in the political blame game. The claims against wind have since been de-bunked, but these blackouts still cast a shadow over Australia’s energy debate.

This is a strong reminder of how incumbent fossil fuel companies and anti-renewable politicians will seek to muddy debate. It won’t matter that there was huge growth in Texas wind and solar under Republican leadership. These blackouts will only fuel warnings about ‘blackout Biden’ and his green plans.

The response from the wind industry should be threefold.

First, companies in the wind sector should do more to extol the virtues of wind and correct misinformation. For too long, it feels like wind companies have been too happy to let critics of the sector make the running, especially online, and spread lies about wind, ranging from cost and resilience to bird deaths and fire. No doubt these untruths have been fuelled by sections of the media. But wind is now too big a part of the energy mix to let this go.

The UK is a good example of progress on this issue.

Even five years ago, wind was being roundly derided by large sections of the UK media. Now, though, it feels like the tide is turning as more people accept the need for renewables and the financial benefits of offshore wind. You’ll never completely silence objectors, but you can still win people round.

Second, operators will need to consider the investments they make to keep turbines running in extreme heat or cold.

We understand why Texas developers wouldn’t tend to invest in blade de-icing systems of the type used in Scandinavia. It isn’t usually needed. But if climate change makes extremes of hot and cold more common, then this will add an extra pressure on operators to ensure their turbines keep running. It is an important investment for the long-term health of the sector.

And third, we must remember that these blackouts can lead to positives. In Australia, they kickstarted a major energy storage investment drive. Texas may see the same as resilience becomes a bigger concern. Maybe it will provide the impetus for fixing long-standing issues with US transmission systems.

The criticism may be disgraceful but, under Biden, it will be constant. What we see in Texas sets the scene for what could be his defining energy battle.

“It is disgraceful to see the long-term antagonists of clean power… engaging in a politically opportunistic charade misleading Americans to promote an agenda that has nothing to do with restoring power to Texas communities.”

So said Heather Zichal, CEO of the American Clean Power Association, in response to allegations that frozen wind farms alone sparked blackouts in Texas last week which left four million people without electricity or heat.

We know that wind alone isn’t to blame.

The outages that followed the Arctic blast in Texas on 13th February were caused by a host of problems: 30GW of lost capacity from natural gas and coal plants; 16GW of lost renewables capacity; an outage at a nuclear power plant; and the fact Texas has a standalone power grid that can’t bring in electricity from other states to cope with very high demand.

Further investigation in the coming weeks will reveal where the blame lies. Undoubtedly, wind will be partly responsible. Iced-up turbine blades isn’t a great look. But we also know that wind usually finds itself in the crosshairs when fossil fuel fans are looking for someone to blame for blackouts. That means there will be unfair and untrue claims thrown in too.

Is the criticism as disgraceful as Zichal claims? Absolutely. But surprising? Not at all. The Texas blackouts show what the US wind sector will have to deal with during the Biden years – and how to handle it.

Blackout Biden

It is inevitable that President Biden's green honeymoon would end.

Biden became US president with a goal to make US electricity carbon-free by 2035. This is a huge target that has enthused wind and solar developers and led to them exploring ways to unlock investment for onshore and offshore developments in the coming years.

But the Texas blackouts have reminded companies of the challenges they’ll face in getting the legislation they need, and the onslaught of negative media they’ll face. Disasters of this scale can shape political and media debate for years.

We need only look at South Australia. In 2016, the state faced widespread blackouts as a result of storm damage to electricity transmission infrastructure but, as in Texas, it was the wind industry that was the initial target in the political blame game. The claims against wind have since been de-bunked, but these blackouts still cast a shadow over Australia’s energy debate.

This is a strong reminder of how incumbent fossil fuel companies and anti-renewable politicians will seek to muddy debate. It won’t matter that there was huge growth in Texas wind and solar under Republican leadership. These blackouts will only fuel warnings about ‘blackout Biden’ and his green plans.

The response from the wind industry should be threefold.

First, companies in the wind sector should do more to extol the virtues of wind and correct misinformation. For too long, it feels like wind companies have been too happy to let critics of the sector make the running, especially online, and spread lies about wind, ranging from cost and resilience to bird deaths and fire. No doubt these untruths have been fuelled by sections of the media. But wind is now too big a part of the energy mix to let this go.

The UK is a good example of progress on this issue.

Even five years ago, wind was being roundly derided by large sections of the UK media. Now, though, it feels like the tide is turning as more people accept the need for renewables and the financial benefits of offshore wind. You’ll never completely silence objectors, but you can still win people round.

Second, operators will need to consider the investments they make to keep turbines running in extreme heat or cold.

We understand why Texas developers wouldn’t tend to invest in blade de-icing systems of the type used in Scandinavia. It isn’t usually needed. But if climate change makes extremes of hot and cold more common, then this will add an extra pressure on operators to ensure their turbines keep running. It is an important investment for the long-term health of the sector.

And third, we must remember that these blackouts can lead to positives. In Australia, they kickstarted a major energy storage investment drive. Texas may see the same as resilience becomes a bigger concern. Maybe it will provide the impetus for fixing long-standing issues with US transmission systems.

The criticism may be disgraceful but, under Biden, it will be constant. What we see in Texas sets the scene for what could be his defining energy battle.

“It is disgraceful to see the long-term antagonists of clean power… engaging in a politically opportunistic charade misleading Americans to promote an agenda that has nothing to do with restoring power to Texas communities.”

So said Heather Zichal, CEO of the American Clean Power Association, in response to allegations that frozen wind farms alone sparked blackouts in Texas last week which left four million people without electricity or heat.

We know that wind alone isn’t to blame.

The outages that followed the Arctic blast in Texas on 13th February were caused by a host of problems: 30GW of lost capacity from natural gas and coal plants; 16GW of lost renewables capacity; an outage at a nuclear power plant; and the fact Texas has a standalone power grid that can’t bring in electricity from other states to cope with very high demand.

Further investigation in the coming weeks will reveal where the blame lies. Undoubtedly, wind will be partly responsible. Iced-up turbine blades isn’t a great look. But we also know that wind usually finds itself in the crosshairs when fossil fuel fans are looking for someone to blame for blackouts. That means there will be unfair and untrue claims thrown in too.

Is the criticism as disgraceful as Zichal claims? Absolutely. But surprising? Not at all. The Texas blackouts show what the US wind sector will have to deal with during the Biden years – and how to handle it.

Blackout Biden

It is inevitable that President Biden's green honeymoon would end.

Biden became US president with a goal to make US electricity carbon-free by 2035. This is a huge target that has enthused wind and solar developers and led to them exploring ways to unlock investment for onshore and offshore developments in the coming years.

But the Texas blackouts have reminded companies of the challenges they’ll face in getting the legislation they need, and the onslaught of negative media they’ll face. Disasters of this scale can shape political and media debate for years.

We need only look at South Australia. In 2016, the state faced widespread blackouts as a result of storm damage to electricity transmission infrastructure but, as in Texas, it was the wind industry that was the initial target in the political blame game. The claims against wind have since been de-bunked, but these blackouts still cast a shadow over Australia’s energy debate.

This is a strong reminder of how incumbent fossil fuel companies and anti-renewable politicians will seek to muddy debate. It won’t matter that there was huge growth in Texas wind and solar under Republican leadership. These blackouts will only fuel warnings about ‘blackout Biden’ and his green plans.

The response from the wind industry should be threefold.

First, companies in the wind sector should do more to extol the virtues of wind and correct misinformation. For too long, it feels like wind companies have been too happy to let critics of the sector make the running, especially online, and spread lies about wind, ranging from cost and resilience to bird deaths and fire. No doubt these untruths have been fuelled by sections of the media. But wind is now too big a part of the energy mix to let this go.

The UK is a good example of progress on this issue.

Even five years ago, wind was being roundly derided by large sections of the UK media. Now, though, it feels like the tide is turning as more people accept the need for renewables and the financial benefits of offshore wind. You’ll never completely silence objectors, but you can still win people round.

Second, operators will need to consider the investments they make to keep turbines running in extreme heat or cold.

We understand why Texas developers wouldn’t tend to invest in blade de-icing systems of the type used in Scandinavia. It isn’t usually needed. But if climate change makes extremes of hot and cold more common, then this will add an extra pressure on operators to ensure their turbines keep running. It is an important investment for the long-term health of the sector.

And third, we must remember that these blackouts can lead to positives. In Australia, they kickstarted a major energy storage investment drive. Texas may see the same as resilience becomes a bigger concern. Maybe it will provide the impetus for fixing long-standing issues with US transmission systems.

The criticism may be disgraceful but, under Biden, it will be constant. What we see in Texas sets the scene for what could be his defining energy battle.

“It is disgraceful to see the long-term antagonists of clean power… engaging in a politically opportunistic charade misleading Americans to promote an agenda that has nothing to do with restoring power to Texas communities.”

So said Heather Zichal, CEO of the American Clean Power Association, in response to allegations that frozen wind farms alone sparked blackouts in Texas last week which left four million people without electricity or heat.

We know that wind alone isn’t to blame.

The outages that followed the Arctic blast in Texas on 13th February were caused by a host of problems: 30GW of lost capacity from natural gas and coal plants; 16GW of lost renewables capacity; an outage at a nuclear power plant; and the fact Texas has a standalone power grid that can’t bring in electricity from other states to cope with very high demand.

Further investigation in the coming weeks will reveal where the blame lies. Undoubtedly, wind will be partly responsible. Iced-up turbine blades isn’t a great look. But we also know that wind usually finds itself in the crosshairs when fossil fuel fans are looking for someone to blame for blackouts. That means there will be unfair and untrue claims thrown in too.

Is the criticism as disgraceful as Zichal claims? Absolutely. But surprising? Not at all. The Texas blackouts show what the US wind sector will have to deal with during the Biden years – and how to handle it.

Blackout Biden

It is inevitable that President Biden's green honeymoon would end.

Biden became US president with a goal to make US electricity carbon-free by 2035. This is a huge target that has enthused wind and solar developers and led to them exploring ways to unlock investment for onshore and offshore developments in the coming years.

But the Texas blackouts have reminded companies of the challenges they’ll face in getting the legislation they need, and the onslaught of negative media they’ll face. Disasters of this scale can shape political and media debate for years.

We need only look at South Australia. In 2016, the state faced widespread blackouts as a result of storm damage to electricity transmission infrastructure but, as in Texas, it was the wind industry that was the initial target in the political blame game. The claims against wind have since been de-bunked, but these blackouts still cast a shadow over Australia’s energy debate.

This is a strong reminder of how incumbent fossil fuel companies and anti-renewable politicians will seek to muddy debate. It won’t matter that there was huge growth in Texas wind and solar under Republican leadership. These blackouts will only fuel warnings about ‘blackout Biden’ and his green plans.

The response from the wind industry should be threefold.

First, companies in the wind sector should do more to extol the virtues of wind and correct misinformation. For too long, it feels like wind companies have been too happy to let critics of the sector make the running, especially online, and spread lies about wind, ranging from cost and resilience to bird deaths and fire. No doubt these untruths have been fuelled by sections of the media. But wind is now too big a part of the energy mix to let this go.

The UK is a good example of progress on this issue.

Even five years ago, wind was being roundly derided by large sections of the UK media. Now, though, it feels like the tide is turning as more people accept the need for renewables and the financial benefits of offshore wind. You’ll never completely silence objectors, but you can still win people round.

Second, operators will need to consider the investments they make to keep turbines running in extreme heat or cold.

We understand why Texas developers wouldn’t tend to invest in blade de-icing systems of the type used in Scandinavia. It isn’t usually needed. But if climate change makes extremes of hot and cold more common, then this will add an extra pressure on operators to ensure their turbines keep running. It is an important investment for the long-term health of the sector.

And third, we must remember that these blackouts can lead to positives. In Australia, they kickstarted a major energy storage investment drive. Texas may see the same as resilience becomes a bigger concern. Maybe it will provide the impetus for fixing long-standing issues with US transmission systems.

The criticism may be disgraceful but, under Biden, it will be constant. What we see in Texas sets the scene for what could be his defining energy battle.

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Full archive access is available to members only

Not a member yet?

Become a member of the 6,500-strong A Word About Wind community today, and gain access to our premium content, exclusive lead generation and investment opportunities.