By Colleen Flaherty
Killeen Daily Herald
Texas' power grid operator set - and broke - usage records throughout the week, avoiding rolling blackouts only by tapping into energy from other sources, dropping interruptible loads and asking consumers to conserve.
The weekend will offer some reprieve in energy demand, Electric Reliability Council of Texas spokesperson Dottie Roark said Friday, but the potential for controlled temporary outages remains, with similarly high temperatures predicted through at least next week.
"(We) could have more days just like we had yesterday (Thursday)," she said. "As long as temperatures continue to remain this high, that's kind of what we're expecting."
ERCOT's previous high-usage record of 65,776 megawatts, set Aug. 23, 2010, was broken Monday, Roark said, when demand soared to 66,867 megawatts from 4 to 5 p.m. The record was short-lived, with Tuesday's peak demand reaching 67,929 megawatts. Wednesday brought a new record, of 68,294 megawatts.
Maximum capacity is about 70,000 megawatts, Roark said, depending on which parts of the grid are offline for servicing or other reasons. If ERCOT hadn't dropped loads on a voluntary basis on Thursday, the record would have been broken for a fourth day, she said.
Dropping loads signals the second step of ERCOT's emergency procedure. The first, which was implemented
this week, entails tapping into others energy sources, including wind farms. The third and final step is to initiate rolling blackouts. These controlled outages have only been implemented three times in 21 years: December 1989, April 2006 and Feb. 2, 2011.
"We've never had to do it for summer before, but we're getting a little close," Roark said.
Although Friday's demand fell to 66,661 megawatts, causing ERCOT to cancel its stage-one emergency procedure at 6 p.m., Roark said it's still important to conserve, especially from 3 to 7 p.m., when demand on the grid is highest.
Other weather-related records also were broken this week, according to the National Weather Service.
Fort Worth-based meteorologist Dan Huckaby said Friday afternoon that Central Texas' climate site in Waco broke a daily record of 106 degrees.
A service thermometer at Skylark Field in Killeen read 104 degrees, he said.
In Waco, Huckaby said, it had been 105 degrees or hotter five days in a row. "It's pretty unusual," he said. "We may go a couple of decades without seeing anything like that."
Seven days of such highs would set a new, all-time record for the region, Huckaby said. The regional forecast is 105 to 107 degrees for the next seven days.
Huckaby attributed the high temperatures to the long-term drought and a persistent high pressure system. "Usually, it moves around a little bit, so we don't see hot weather like this for a week," he said. "The drought and the weather we've had make it one of the hottest summers on record."
Contact Colleen Flaherty at firstname.lastname@example.org or (254) 501-7559. Follow her on Twitter at KDHfeatures.
Electricity conservation tips
During the peak usage hours of 3 to 7 p.m.:
Turn off all unnecessary lights, appliances and electronics.
When at home, close blinds and drapes that get direct sun, set air conditioning thermostats to 78 degrees or higher, and use fans in occupied rooms to feel cooler.
When away from home, set air conditioning thermostats to 85 degrees and turn all fans off before you leave. Block the sun by closing blinds or drapes on windows that will get direct sun.
Do not use dishwashers, laundry equipment, hair dryers, coffee makers or other home appliances.
Avoid opening refrigerators or freezers more than necessary.
Use microwaves for cooking instead of an electric range or oven.
Set pool pumps to run in the early morning or evening.
Source: Electric Reliability Council of Texas