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Texas Second Day of Power Outages May Be Avoided

February 3, 2011

A second day of controlled power outages by some utilities might not be needed in Texas in response to huge electric demand following a winter storm.

The Electric Reliability Council of Texas early Thursday said “immediate concerns for the possibility of rotating outages this morning are reduced.”   But ERCOT said the agency would continue to monitor the state’s electric grid for additional unexpected losses of generation, a day after the problem led to mandated outages across the ERCOT system.

Wednesday night, ERCOT said in a statement that electricity demand hit record highs and to be aware of the possibility of more rolling outages.   See their original statement below.

Residents and businesses across Texas and in Brown County experienced rolling blackouts Wednesday due to the bitterly cold weather, and those blackouts could continue into Thursday as demand for energy continues to increase.

The Electric Reliability Council of Texas (ERCOT) said that electricity demand peaked Wednesday evening at 56,334 MW between 7-8 pm – a new all-time record for winter peak demand.  ERCOT’s previous record for all-time winter peak demand was 55,878 MW, which occurred on Jan. 8, 2010.

Although the immediate concerns for the possibility of rotating outages Wednesday evening are reduced, ERCOT will still be monitoring the grid closely.  Officials said in a press release that additional unexpected major losses of generation could force operators to proceed with emergency procedures to avoid an uncontrolled statewide blackout.

Another record demand for electricity is expected Thursday morning.

At this time, the forecast for Thursday peak load is 56,800 MW which would break the record again.  ERCOT is asking consumers to reduce energy consumption during peak-demand times from 6 – 9 am.

The grid continues to have more than 5,000 MW of generation out of service across the state due to the effect of the extreme cold.

Rotating outages are controlled, temporary interruptions of electrical service initiated by each utility when supplies of reserve power are exhausted.  Without this safety valve, generators would overload and begin shutting down to avoid damage, risking a domino effect of a state-wide outage.  Utilities/ transmission providers determine the location/scheduling of the rotating outages.

The rolling outages usually last between 5 and 15 minutes, but some may last longer, up to 45 minutes.  3M of Brownwood experience a power outage Wednesday that lasted for several hours.

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