Cold enough for ya? You betcha. The subzero temps Minnesota experienced the past week weren’t record-setting, but it has been some time since we’ve had such frigid weather for days on end.
But the cold has hardly been unprecedented. Even Mankato, closer to Missouri than to Canada, gets into the minus-20s pretty much every year. Minnesotans know winter is coming, and we know what it takes to be ready for the worst of it.
That can hardly be said for every state. This week’s agony in Texas — with millions shivering in the dark amid “rolling” blackouts that aren’t rolling — is deep enough to affect Moorhead, which is, with its North Dakota neighbor Fargo, part of the vast Southwest Power Pool network.
The SPP stretches from North Dakota to Texas, and its power grid has staggered under the strain of this week’s snow and cold. Moorhead was hit with periodic blackouts Tuesday.
Which pales in comparison to Texas, where electrical production and distribution is far more likely to be strained by summer swelter. The operators of the wobbling power grid in the Lone Star state warned Tuesday that the alternative to these lengthy blackouts could be a collapse of the grid that would take months to repair.
That is cold discomfort for the residents of a state whose political leaders last summer were mocking California for imposing rolling blackouts to limit the danger of wildfires. Now that switch has been flipped, and it is Texas whose people find themselves in the dark.
This has, unfortunately, led to some erroneous finger-pointing at renewable sources of energy in Texas. That petroleum-producing state’s power generators have invested heavily in recent years in wind and solar power, and on Tuesday Texas Gov. Greg Abbott blamed the purportedly unreliable renewables for the power shortages.
His comments were malign, ignorant or both. The state’s energy department said Tuesday that the renewables had been more reliable than the traditional thermal generators, which had far deeper dropoffs. The core of Texas’ problem: Little of its electrical infrastructure, from natural gas wells to pipelines to (yes) wind turbines, is winterized.
Bottom line: Texas’s failure to anticipate a winter power crunch does not mean Minnesota’s continuing shift from fossil fuel-based generation is doomed. But Texas can be seen as an example of what can go wrong if we don’t anticipate the extremes — especially in a changing climate given to going to the extremes.