Texas’ power grid was on the verge of failure after cold snap record temperatures, snow and rolling blackouts across the state. Millions of Texans were without electricity, and some have questioned why the most power-generating state in America is unable to keep the lights on. Misinformation about blackouts has also started spreading online, blamed on wind and solar power.
Roughly 3 million people in Texas had to deal with the outage for much of the week, as power generators and natural gas pipes froze, causing the state’s production capacity to collapse. This led to the Electric Reliability Council of Texas (ERCOT), which administers the state’s power grid to administer rolling blackouts to avoid grid failure. Lights in Texas are slowly coming back, though some will still have to wait according to a press release from the organization.
Here is all you need to know about electric evacuation in Texas.
What happened to power in Texas?
This past weekend, a winter storm made its way into Texas, adding to the cold in the state. As the teenage temperatures began to drop since Monday morning, power plant generators began to freeze and go offline across the state, causing a significant reduction in energy production. At the same time, electricity demand increased as people turned on the thermostats.
About 50% of the power generated by Texas comes from natural gas, with the other half split between coal, wind, nuclear, and solar. Due to the cold, however, the gas cannot make its way from the ground through the pipe. ERCOT says 46,000 MW were offline as of Wednesday. One megawatt is enough to power about 200 homes in a year. Out of 680 statewide, 70 to 80 power plants are offline as of Wednesday. Thermal energy – natural gas, coal and nuclear – is made up of those 28,000 MW while wind and solar make 16,000.
“The production capacity of the gas generator, particularly on full production, was affected by the impact of the cold on natural gas supplies,” EVCOT President and Chief Executive Officer Bill Magness said on Wednesday. “So getting those resources back is the central solution for people to get their power back.”
About 40% of the generators went offline due to cold weather. Significant power outages led to blackouts across the state, as ERCOT tried to maintain a balance between supply and demand to prevent “catastrophic” blackouts. This led to the outage lasting much longer than the ERCOT anticipated.
To set up power plants for extreme cold to protect generators from freezing, Dan Woodfin, senior director of systems operations for ERCOT, says national standards are being considered, but they have not yet been mandated.
“It’s a voluntary guideline for individual generation companies to decide to do those things,” Woodfin said. “They have the financial incentive to be able to participate in the market to follow it [regulations] And stay online, but there is no regulation at this point. ”
He points out that in northern states, power generators are usually located in buildings, which help protect them in winter. However, Texas people tend to keep generators out to make full use of it in the summer months when energy demand is high, with more homes using air conditioning. Having those generators indoors will increase heat and prevent them from being used at their full potential. According to Woodfin, best practices are to keep generators online in cold weather, but they were not sufficient with extremely low temperatures.
Texas has its own independent power grid and is not connected to the Eastern Interconnection and Western Interconnection Grid covering the rest of the country. The state can draw power from neighboring states and Mexico, but the available amount is limited. It also did not help that the neighboring states needed all their electricity to keep up with demand.
What is the deal with people who blame wind and solar?
Confusion over the cause of the blackout began to spread on social media, especially from state government officials.
“The cause of the blackouts is complex, but in summary: Texas took a lot of lessons from Cali, over-subsidized renewable, and outmoded baseloid energy like natural gas,” Rep. Dan Crenshaw, a Republican from Texas. Tweeted Tuesday.
A similar sentiment has come from fellow GOP Texas Representative Renee Jackson, who said on Facebook on Tuesday, “Our dependence on renewable energy needs to be revisited.”
But on Tuesday, the Texas government, Greg Abbott, a Republican, also hinted at freezing natural gas as part of the problem.
“The reason the electricity is not available to your audience is that the power generators freeze and their equipment is unable to generate electricity. Then after that, the natural gas that flows in those power generators, which also freezes up , “Abbott told Houston’s ABC-13.
However, on Tuesday night, Abbott went to Sean Hannity’s program on Fox News and gave a different account of what happened.
“, Our wind and solar shut down, and they collectively account for 10% of our power grid, and put that Texas in a position where it lacked power on a statewide basis,” he told Hannity. “As a result, it shows that fossil fuels are necessary for the state of Texas.”
According to ERCOT officials, however, most of the lost power came from thermal energy, which is primarily made up of natural gas and not wind or solar power.
“By 9am,” the organization said in a press release Wednesday, “The generation of about 46,000 MW has been forced out of the system during this extreme winter weather event. Of this, 28,000 MW is thermal and 18,000 MW is wind. And solar. ”
Abbott appeared during a press conference in Austin on Wednesday to retract his comments.
“I was asked a question about Akshay in a TV show, and I answered that question,” he said. “Every source of power in the state of Texas is compromised.”
When will electricity come back?
The ERCOT did not provide a specific time when power was restored on Wednesday, but said Thursday morning was the best case. The organization said that on Thursday most customers’ lights had returned and the grid was stable. Electronic companies continue to restore power to the remainder of Texas while still in the dark, while a winter storm spreads on Friday.