Was a Helicopter Photographed De-icing a Frozen Wind Turbine with Chemicals in Texas?

Right-wing social media users tried to circulate an image showing a helicopter de-icing a frozen wind turbine, insinuating it was captured in Texas amid the winter storm.

As the state of Texas was battered by a winter storm that caused the power grids tobuckle under high demand, a claim that Texas' wind turbines have frozen due to the cold weather conditions, leading to blackouts is being circulated on social media.

The assertion was accompanied with a photograph appearing to show a helicopter de-icing a wind turbine with chemicals, which conservatives, including Rep. Lauren Boebert (R-Colo.), cited as "proof" to criticize sustainable energy and that new alternatives are not as "green" as they claim.

"A helicopter running on fossil fuel spraying a chemical made from fossil fuels onto a wind turbine made with fossil fuels during an ice storm is awesome," the image was captioned.

wind turbine

Fact-Check: False

While it is true that helicopters and even drones can be used to de-ice wind turbines, the image being circulated on social media comes is not from present-day Texas. The viral photo is from seven years ago and shows a helicopter de-icing a frozen wind turbine in Sweden and has often been used to spread misinformation against green energy.

As reported by Earther, the image is from a 2014 Alpine Helicopters expedition to de-ice turbines in Sweden using hot water, not chemicals made with fossil fuels as claimed in the Twitter post above. The project sprayed the turbines with boiling water scooped up from a boiler truck on the ground. The goal was to be cost-effective and relatively quick and the image was taken from the company's presentation on the process.

Alpine Helicopters
The image shown in one of the slides. Alpine Helicopters

It was also accompanied with video footage:

As pointed out by climate and clean tech author Ketan Joshi, the carbon footprint of the helicopters dropping boiling water on a frozen turbine is minimal, which means even when de-icing is required, wind energy is still much more sustainable than power generated by coal or natural gas.

The image has been used on several occasions in the past by opponents of green energy to spread misinformation and the Texas winter storm was one such occassion. While helicopters are used to de-ice frozen wind turbines, there is no proof that Texas is using this method, much less spraying "chemicals."

A state of emergency has been declared in Texas where as many as 21 people have died and millions are struggling to cope with the lack of power and frigid conditions. According to WFAA-TV, ERCOT reported that most of its natural gas, coal and nuclear power plants were responsible for the power outages across the state. However, right-wingers saw it as an opportunity to falsely pin the blame on renewable energy rather than the state's privately-managed utility system.