Record power demand triggers blackouts, thousands without service

HARLINGEN — The agency that controls the majority of the Texas power grid began rolling blackouts early Monday morning in the midst of unprecedented demand for electricity in the state.

The outages are only expected to last between 15 and 45 minutes, although some reported being without electricity for hours, and officials with the Electric Reliability Council of Texas, ERCOT, say the outages may continue through Tuesday as power demand is expected to remain at record levels.

On Monday, more than 2 million Texas households and businesses were without power for a time as the extreme cold caused many generating units – across different fuel types – to trip offline and become unavailable.

Over 30,000 megawatts of generation has been forced off the system, which is enough electricity to power about six million homes.

“Every grid operator and every electric company is fighting to restore power right now,” ERCOT President and CEO Bill Magness said Monday.

Here in the Valley, outages were reported by both AEP Texas and Magic Valley Electric Cooperative.

As of Monday afternoon, 38,266 AEP Texas customers were without power in the Harlingen area; 51,081 were in the dark in the McAllen area, 2,375 were without electricity in Brownsville; and 5,311 were without power in the South Padre Island and Port Isabel area, according to the AEP Texas outage map.

Magic Valley had 3,278 customers without power in Cameron County, 29,942 customers without power in Hidalgo County and 20 without power in Willacy County, according to their outage map.

“ERCOT has declared an Emergency Alert 3 and is requiring MVEC to rotate outages in our area due to extreme winter weather,” Magic Valley tweeted Monday afternoon. “MVEC must comply and will begin to shed load as instructed by ERCOT. MVEC members should continue to reduce energy consumption wherever possible.”

Statewide, AEP Texas, which operates in a broad area from the Panhandle to Houston to the Valley and into West Texas, had a total of 365,181 customers without power on Monday afternoon.

Spokespersons for AEP Texas and Magic Valley did not return calls or emails seeking comment.

ERCOT set a new record Sunday evening between 6 and 7 p.m. with demand hitting 69,150 megawatts. This was more than 3,200 megawatts above the previous winter mark set in January 2018.

Something had to give.

At 1:25 a.m. Monday, ERCOT ordered rolling blackouts which continued throughout the day and are expected to be repeated Tuesday. The agency warned that many traffic lights would be out of service, which was the case for much of Harlingen on Monday morning.

Magness said generating plant outages were higher than normal “due to frozen wind turbines and limited natural gas supplies available to generating units.”

Almost half of the wind power in Texas is offline due to iced-up wind turbines in West Texas, the Austin American-Statesman reported.

But coastal wind turbines in the Valley and to the north have not had the problems West Texas is having, and continue to contribute to the state’s power grid, the paper said.


ERCOT says we can help:

Turn down thermostats to 68 degreesClose shades and blinds to reduce the amount of heat lost through windowsTurn off and unplug non-essential lights and appliancesAvoid using large appliances (i.e., ovens, washing machines, etc.)Businesses should minimize the use of electric lighting and electricity-consuming equipment as much as possibleLarge consumers of electricity should consider shutting down or reducing non-essential production processes

Source: ERCOT

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