Texas Deep Freeze disaster had a backup plan. It failed, as well.

Thomas Ryan Allison/Bloomberg

Texas’ days-long power outages during last February’s deep freeze almost stretched into weeks or even months thanks to a string of failures at “black start” generators.

More than half of the state’s 28 black start generators, which are crucial for bringing a collapsed grid back to life, experienced outages themselves, according to a new report by The Wall Street Journal. Of the 13 primary generators, nine encountered trouble, as did six of 15 secondary generators acting as backups in case the primary backups failed. Some had trouble getting enough fuel to run, while others were damaged by the cold weather.

Every North American grid has black start generators, but there’s no nationwide standard regulating them. Each state or grid operator decides how to operate the generators. Some use a mix of fossil fuel generators and hydroelectric dams…

But Texas no longer has any hydroelectric black start facilities. All of its black start generators use natural gas as a primary fuel, and only 13 generators at six sites can use fuel oil as a backup. When natural gas supplies run short, generators without an alternate fuel source are unable to provide vital services to the grid. Plant operators are required to maintain a reserve supply of fuel, but it wasn’t clear during the February freeze that they were all fulfilling this obligation. The Electric Reliability Council of Texas, or ERCOT, which manages most of the state’s electrical grid, is reportedly in the process of trying to recover some of the payments made to black start facilities that failed during the outage.

The Black Start facilities were getting regular payments to provide an emergency service. When this disaster struck, they were unable to provide that service. IMHO, they not only do not deserve payment for that immediate incident, they must be able to provide proof of previous readiness or refund payment for some or all of that previous period.

5 thoughts on “Texas Deep Freeze disaster had a backup plan. It failed, as well.

  1. p/s says:

    “The true number of people killed by the disastrous winter storm and power outages that devastated Texas in February is likely four or five times what the state has acknowledged so far.” https://www.buzzfeednews.com/article/peteraldhous/texas-winter-storm-power-outage-death-toll
    Texas Gov. Greg Abbott’s press secretary, Renae Eze, did not respond to questions about the significantly higher death toll or whether the state would investigate further, but said Abbott was “working collaboratively with the House and Senate to find meaningful and lasting solutions to ensure these tragic events are never repeated.”
    “The Governor joins all Texans in mourning every single life lost during the winter storm, and we pray for the families who are suffering from the loss of a loved one,” she said.

  2. moss says:

    Relying on prayer to solve a human-caused/or exacerbated disaster may as well be counted alongside criminal causes. Certainly doesn’t dissuade stupid behavior.

  3. Update says:

    ‘Unplanned’ outages hit Texas power plants in soaring temperatures : One official said he was “deeply concerned” about the number of offline plants. https://www.nbcnews.com/news/us-news/unplanned-outages-hit-texas-power-plants-amid-soaring-temperatures-n1270827
    A spokeswoman for the power grid operator told reporters that the outages accounted for more than 12,000 megawatts, enough to power 2.4 million homes. Some areas of the state, including Dallas and Tarrant counties, were warned about poor air quality and potentially dangerous heat, with the heat index approaching 110 degrees.

  4. Cascade effect says:

    Cardboard shortages deal another blow to strained supply chains – just in time for the holiday shopping frenzy. https://arstechnica.com/gadgets/2021/10/cardboard-shortages-deal-another-blow-to-strained-supply-chains/
    “…Complicating the situation is last winter’s deep freeze that knocked several power plants in Texas offline for days. With no power, refineries were unable to make plastics used in shipping materials. That, in turn, led manufacturers and shippers to rely more on other products—like cardboard.”

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