Credit: 2009 Black Star (Newscom TagID: bsphotos025766.jpg) [Photo via Newscom]
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What a surprise! Energy demand soars in really cold weather. One researcher served up the bad news: “When wind-turbine blades get covered with ice, they need to be shut down”. This in turn can cause sudden frequency problems on electricity grids. Global warming falls short yet again.
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(Bloomberg) — Millions of households in Texas are suffering rolling power blackouts for the first time in a decade as an unprecedented Arctic freeze wrought chaos in U.S. energy markets, reports Yahoo News.
The largest cities from Houston to San Antonio were without power for spells of up to an hour at a time as supplies in the U.S.’s second largest state fluctuated wildly.
“Every grid operator and every electric company is fighting to restore power right now,” said Bill Magness President and Chief Executive Officer of Ercot, the operator of the state’s power grid.
The extreme cold caught the highly decentralized Texan electricity market by surprise despite a heads up a week ago about the impending frigid temperatures from the U.S. National Weather Service.
With the equivalent of 2 million households being cut off at a time, the situation is expected to worsen throughout Monday. Ercot is expecting power demand to hit an all-time high, breaking a record set during a summer heat wave in 2019.
These are the first rolling blackouts caused by cold weather since 2011. Spikes in electricity demand usually happen in summer in Texas when air conditioning use rises.
A loss of frequency on the grid has caused 30 gigawatts of generation to halt. Many stations will have been undergoing scheduled maintenance, leaving the grid more exposed during unusually large spikes in demand.
Rotating outages will likely last throughout Monday morning and are a possibility until the weather conditions ease, Ercot said in a statement.
About 800 daily records for cold temperatures have been surpassed in the past week as Arctic air pushes all the way to the Gulf of Mexico. Across the U.S., winter storm warnings and weather advisories are affecting 157 million people, said Brian Hurley, a senior branch forecaster with the U.S. Weather Prediction Center.
Parts of Texas were colder than Alaska, according to the National Weather Service. The temperature at 5 a.m. in Houston was 18 degrees Fahrenheit, matching the reading in Anchorage. In the Dallas Fort Worth area it was 5 degrees Fahrenheit.
Frigid temperatures and a parade of storms in the U.S. follow other instances of extreme winter weather this year that have snarled ports and upended energy markets in Asia and Europe. Texas, which isn’t accustomed to winter’s full fury, is getting a big taste.
President Joe Biden declared a state of emergency, mobilizing federal assistance to aid local response efforts.
Full report here.
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