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IndyStar: The Polar Vortex Has Left Millions of Texans without Power. Could the Same Happen to Hoosiers?

Posted by Sarah Bowman and London Gibson on Feb 18, 2021

Indianapolis Star-Tribune examines unprecedented weather-related blackouts occurring across Texas, analyzing the likelihood of similar outages in Indiana. The article quotes AEE's Leah Rubin Shen on the benefits of grid diversification and the robust weatherization technologies available for wind turbines. Read excerpts below and the full IndyStar story here.

The same winter storm that blew more than 8 inches of snow into Indianapolis on Monday hit Texas — and hit it hard. The southern state reached record-breaking cold temperatures and residents cranking up the heat overwhelmed power generators. Millions of households lost electricity, and many have now been without power and heat for days. Predictions on when it will be restored are uncertain…

The outages also raise a question: Could this happen in Indiana?

The answer is yes – but it's not likely. Unlike Texas, Indiana's power system is under heavy regulation that requires weatherization. It's power grid is also connected to many other states, giving it the ability to pull in power from neighbors in the event of power loss in Indiana…

Shortly after power outages started on Monday, rumors — repeated by many state politicians, including Texas Gov. Greg Abbott — began circulating that the blackouts were caused by frozen wind turbines…

Concerns have been raised during Indiana’s legislative session in recent years about the reliability of renewable sources. Some lawmakers have said the state should keep coal and natural gas around for that reason. But those calls are unfounded, said Leah Rubin Shen, the Indiana Director of Advanced Energy Economy, a member organization that advocates on the economic potential of clean energy.

“This is impacting all kinds of power sources and in a way this highlights the risk of over-reliance on fossil fuels that need to be delivered like coal and natural gas,” she said.

There are ways to equip wind turbines to withstand this type of event. Indiana's are weatherized and wind turbines operate smoothly in places as harsh as Antarctica. It’s actually easier to make them more robust for this weather rather than preparing a coal or natural gas plant, according to Rubin Shen.

Regardless, it does show “that when you have a more robust mix of technology on the grid, it improves resilience,” she said. “Indiana is currently around 70% reliant on coal, and that’s a lot to put on one fuel source.” …

President Joe Biden’s administration plans to push for upgrades, including weather protections, as part of a “historic investment” in electric grids across the country. The administration is anticipated to release an infrastructure spending plan in the coming weeks…

Read the full story here.

Topics: United In The News