Texas Grid Meets The Challenge Of A Long Winter Cold Spell
exas just got out of its longest cold spell in six years. Starting Sunday, parts of the state dipped below freezing and stayed there for around three days. Ice caused accidents. Snow brought delight. But one notable outcome was something that did not happen: The lights didn’t go out.
“The last time there was an event similar to this was back in Feb. 2 through 4 of 2011,” says Victor Murphy, the climate service program manager for the National Weather Service in Fort Worth. “If you recall during that event, the state electrical grid couldn’t handle the demand and the state suffered rolling blackouts.”
Temperatures didn’t get as cold this week, but electricity demand was actually much higher. In fact, the demand broke a new winter record, hitting 62,885 megawatts between 7 and 8 o’clock Wednesday morning, says Leslie Sopko, spokesperson for the Electric Reliability Council of Texas, or ERCOT.
So why, under similar weather conditions and with higher electric demand, were there no blackouts? To understand, you’ve got to remember what caused blackouts the last time.
Part of the problem was that transmission equipment and infrastructure at some power plants actually froze, pushing the plants offline.
“Since then, winter weatherization procedures have been modified,” Sopko says. “One of the things that we do is we actually send staff out prior to winter. We send them to spot-visit various power plants to make sure that those procedures have been implemented.”