Frozen Wind Turbines and Freezing Gather Lines Plague Texas During Outages

Posted on 02/19/2021

The State of Texas, as well as northern Mexico, got hit with major power outages, impacting the safety of the state’s residents. The Electric Reliability Council of Texas (ERCOT) manages the flow of electric power on the Texas Interconnection that supplies power to more than 25 million Texas customers – representing 90 percent of the state’s electric load. ERCOT oversees 26 million Texans’ access to electricity.

“It needed to be addressed immediately,” said Bill Magness, president of ERCOT said on February 18, 2021. “It was seconds and minutes [from possible failure] given the amount of generation that was coming off the system.”

Texas produces more electricity than any other U.S. state, according to U.S. federal statistics. Natural gas fired plants, utility scale wind power, and coal plants went offline due to the extreme cold brought by the winter storm. West Texas, where most of the wind energy is focused, had wind turbines that had to be de-iced. The turbines in Texas were not winterized for the unexpected cold front. Pipelines in Texas also didn’t use cold insulation, so pipes were freezing. In addition, natural gas and coal-fired power plants need water to run. This caused the amount of power supplied to the grid to be distributed across Texas drop quickly. Simultaneously, due to cold weather, electricity demand was increasing as citizens and businesses increased their use of heat. Based on analyzing Texas energy generation data, wind power fell fast initially and natural gas energy generation tried to make up the difference. Natural gas and coal power in Texas brought a stable source of energy for the state, but it was not enough to match demand. Officials said 13 million Texans are impacted by boil water notices.

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