The overall power output of Texas has declined after nearly half of the state’s wind turbines, which produce around 20% of the state’s power, were frozen in a winter storm over the weekend while the state’s natural gas system, which the state relies on for about 50% of its energy, simultaneously experienced “issues.”
“The Electric Reliability Council of Texas (ERCOT) entered emergency conditions and initiated rotating outages at 1:25 a.m. today,” ERCOT announced in a press release Monday. “About 10,500 MW of customer load was shed at the highest point. This is enough power to serve approximately two million homes. Extreme weather conditions caused many generating units – across fuel types – to trip offline and become unavailable. There is now over 30,000 MW of generation forced off the system.”
“Every grid operator and every electric company is fighting to restore power right now,” ERCOT President and CEO Bill Magness said in a statement. The rotating outages “will likely last throughout the morning and could be initiated until this weather emergency ends,” ERCOT warned.
Among the power problems suffered by Texas was the shut down of nearly half of the state’s wind farms.
“Wind farms across the state generate up to a combined 25,100 megawatts of energy. But unusually moist winter conditions in West Texas brought on by the weekend’s freezing rain and historically low temperatures have iced many of those wind turbines to a halt,” the Austin American-Statesman reported. “As of Sunday morning, those iced turbines comprise 12,000 megawatts of Texas’ installed wind generation capacity, although those West Texas turbines don’t typically spin to their full generation capacity this time of year.”
“In 2015 winder power generation supplied 11% of Texas’ energy grid. Last year it supplied 23% and overtook coal as the system’s second-largest source of energy after natural gas,” the Austin American-Statesman notes.
While the loss of wind farm production appears to have impacted the overall energy output, issues with the natural gas system appear to have played a larger role in the widespread outages.
“It appears that a lot of the generation that’s gone offline today, either tripped or had to go offline, has been primarily due to issues on the natural gas system,” ERCOT Senior Director Dan Woodfin explained in a Feb. 16 news conference.
Parts of Texas reportedly dipped down to 0F (-18C) over the weekend and the state continued to experience frigid temperatures on Monday morning. More than 2 million homes and businesses in the state have experienced power outages as a result. Officials have said that the strong winds from the storm have helped spin wind turbines at a faster rate in other parts of the state, helping to make up for some of the loss of power. Fox Business reported that the severe weather was also leading to a reduction in oil and gas production.
President Joe Biden approved an emergency declaration for Texas on Sunday and “ordered federal assistance to supplement state and local response efforts due to the emergency conditions resulting from a severe winter storm beginning on February 11, 2021, and continuing,” according to a statement from the White House. “The President’s action authorizes the Department of Homeland Security, Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA), to coordinate all disaster relief efforts which have the purpose of alleviating the hardship and suffering caused by the emergency on the local population, and to provide appropriate assistance for required emergency measures, authorized under Title V of the Stafford Act, to save lives and to protect property and public health and safety, and to lessen or avert the threat of a catastrophe in all 254 Texas counties.”
“Specifically, FEMA is authorized to identify, mobilize, and provide at its discretion, equipment and resources necessary to alleviate the impacts of the emergency,” the statement added. “Emergency protective measures for mass care and sheltering and direct federal assistance will be provided at 75 percent federal funding.”
This article has been expanded to include more details about the percentage of energy production by the various energy sources in Texas as well as statements from ERCOT officials.