A near-miss on the Texas grid

ERCOT kept the lights on.

Temporary blackouts in South Florida Tuesday were all the rage across the nation, but Texas came close to making headlines too when a little weather – or lack of it – created a drama for the state’s power grid operator.
A cold front moved through northwestern parts of the state early Tuesday afternoon, just as evening power demand started to climb. This led to lower wind speeds such that, over the course of three hours 1,700 megawatts of Texas wind power dropped down to 300 megawatts as the wind died out, according to the Electric Reliability Council of Texas, the grid operator for much of the state.
At the same time the wind died down “multiple power providers [fell] below their scheduled energy production,” according to ERCOT. In other words other power plants that had said they planned on spinning at that time just weren’t online.
At about 6:30 ERCOT officials activated their long-running but rarely used emergency plan, where large industrial users are ready to stop using power make it available to the rest of the grid on short notice. The Loads Acting as Resource, or LAARs, program added about 1,100 megawatts of power back to the grid within about 10 minutes.
Those companies were able to restart their operations within about an hour and a half, and by 9:40 p.m. the emergency was over, according to an ERCOT spokeswoman.
So other than the companies that volunteered to shut-down, no one lost power and the back-up plan worked.
There were indeed rolling blackouts back in April 2006 when simultaneous problems at a few power plants were combied with a shortfall of power caused by a large number of providers not putting as much power onto the grid as they had scheduled. A number of firms were fined for not meeting committments in that case.
Stay tuned for more details on this new near-miss.