Frozen turbines and surging demand prompt rolling blackouts in Texas.By Clifford Krauss and Ivan Penn

The storm is taking a heavy toll on electric service in Texas. An estimated 2.6 million homes and businesses in the state had their power interrupted Sunday night and Monday morning because of storm damage or in rotating outages ordered by regulators.

Many of the interruptions were fairly short, lasting between 15 and 45 minutes, but some customers have lost power for hours and are unsure when it will be back on.

Part of the problem arose when wind turbines in West Texas became frozen. Roughly half of the state’s wind generating capacity was knocked offline, shutting off as much as 10,500 megawatts of wind power, a significant chunk of the state’s total electricity supply. Authorities were expected to de-ice the turbines through the day.

The Electric Reliability Council of Texas, which manages the state’s power grid, said in a statement that the rotating outages were a “last resort to preserve the reliability of the electric system as a whole.”

The outages began at about 1:25 a.m., affecting different areas at different times, and could continue through the day.

The council ordered local utilities to begin the outages to conserve power because of high demand and the loss of generating capacity. That action is usually kept as a last resort for extreme heat waves in the summer, when consumers turn their air-conditioners way up. The last time such an order was issued in the winter was in February 2011.

Monday’s wind power loss alone affected 2 million customers. But the problems deepened as other generating sources also experienced cold- and storm-related problems and were taken off line. All told, the state was missing as much as 30,000 megawatts of generating capacity at times on Monday.

“Every grid operator and every electric company is fighting to restore power right now,” said Bill Magness, the chief executive of the council.

“Please do your best to stay warm safely,” Mayor Sylvester Turner of Houston wrote on Twitter early Monday. “We will get through this together.”

The council ordered local utilities to begin the outages to conserve power because of high demand and the loss of generating capacity. That action is usually kept as a last resort for extreme heat waves in the summer, when consumers turn their air-conditioners way up. The last time such an order was issued in the winter was in February 2011.

Monday’s wind power loss alone affected 2 million customers. But the problems deepened as other generating sources also experienced cold- and storm-related problems and were taken off line. All told, the state was missing as much as 30,000 megawatts of generating capacity at times on Monday.

“Every grid operator and every electric company is fighting to restore power right now,” said Bill Magness, the chief executive of the council.

“Please do your best to stay warm safely,” Mayor Sylvester Turner of Houston wrote on Twitter early Monday. “We will get through this together.”

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