Hurricane Harvey makes a good case for low-carbon distributed energy
Willow Aliento | 29 August 2017
As Southeast Texas drowns under record-breaking rainfall, the area’s oil and gas industry has come to a sudden halt.
The shutdown reflects the vulnerability of the fossil fuel sector to natural disaster, according to a report by Triple Pundit.
It also reflects vulnerabilities in the US energy sector, with the area of the Texas Gulf Coast a major contributor to US fuel supplies.
Wind power in the storm-affected area has also been impacted, with turbines shut down due to risk from Hurricane Harvey’s high winds.
At this point, the report said, the extent of damage to any of the area’s energy infrastructure is not known.
What is obvious, however, is the storm’s impacts contribute to the case for distributed energy generation and energy storage. Integrating more renewables and storage into the grid was also highlighted in a report on national grid resiliency released last week by the US Department of Energy.
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This is something New York has already taken on board as part of the post-Sandy recovery effort. Resources have been put towards boosting energy resilience through microgrids incorporating batteries and solar.
A similar approach is being seen in South Australia, with both small-scale and large-scale storage installations being actively supported.
One of the ironies of the Texas oil and gas industry going into shut down mode is that atmospheric scientists have said climate change is part of the reason Harvey has been so destructive.
Climate change driven by fossil fuel carbon emissions leads to more intense rainfall during storms, as higher temperatures lead to more water evaporating into the air and feeding the cloud systems.
In a National Geographic news story on the storm, Kevin Trenberth, a senior scientist at the National Center for Atmospheric Research in Colorado, said, “In general, the way to think about it is: climate change has changed the environment that everything is happening in.
“When you add in the climate’s natural variability and then the right conditions come along, you can get a storm which is stronger than you might otherwise have expected.”