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Cold Front and the Need for Sustainable Power


As 2023 began and 2022 came to a close, the memory of the historic cold front in the US is still fresh in the minds of many. The record-breaking chill not only plunged some areas of the country to temperatures as low as -40 degrees Fahrenheit but also brought an interesting observation about renewable energy to the forefront. During 2022’s coldest days, thousands of households were left freezing without electricity, for renewable energies, on which many American regions relied, ceased working.


PUTTING ELECTRIC GRID TO ITS LIMIT

According to the US Energy Information Administration, the extreme cold strained the power grid, resulting in less electricity overall. As such, more energy was required just to get the normal level of electricity across. Traditional forms of energy were pushed to their limits by this challenge, but the situation was even grimmer when it came to renewables. Wind turbines could not turn, solar cells received too little sunlight, and hydropower was out of options. With states such as New York and New Jersey depending on renewables to produce more than 70% of their power, it was no surprise why tens of thousands could not access electricity in the waning days of last year. This should serve as a warning that when it comes to clean energy, it is essential to consider its year-round availability, even during disasters.


R&D IS KEY

The US National Renewable Energy Laboratory notes that research is needed to develop new methods for producing and maintaining renewable energy during harsh weather conditions. The private sector can play a substantial role in trailblazing the research by investing in R&D and partnering with academic institutions and government agencies to develop solutions. For example, companies such as GE Renewable Energy, Siemens Gamesa, and Vestas Wind Systems are investing in R&D to improve the design of wind turbines to better withstand extreme weather conditions. Additionally, Tesla is developing advanced energy storage systems that will be able to function under the most severe environmental conditions.


The recent cold front serves as a reminder that transitioning to a fully renewable energy system is not a simple task. Therefore, the focus from now on must be on the continued research and development of new methods for efficiently managing the energy throughout the supply chain.



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