ERCOT was minutes from a ‘black start’ that would have killed power, cell signals in Texas for weeks
By Amanda Drane February 24, 2021
Last week’s winter storm strained the Texas grid more than ever before, bringing it dangerously close to a “black start” event that could have taken weeks to fix, grid operators said during an emergency meeting Wednesday.
A black start would have plunged the entire grid into frigid darkness indefinitely, taking cell service along with it while the Electric Reliability Council of Texas worked to rebuild the grid. Grid operators likened the role ERCOT plays to that of an air traffic control room.
“I think it’s important the public understand, ERCOT was flying a 747,” said Peter Cramton, who was vice-chair before he resigned today. “It had not one but two engines experience catastrophic failure, then flew the damaged plane for 103 hours before safely landing in the Hudson. In my mind, the men and women in the air traffic control room are heroes.”
“We regret that this event took the time it did to resolve,” said Bill Magness, ERCOT’s president and chief executive. “And in this presentation we’ll try to explain what we saw.”
The extreme cold knocked about half of the grid’s electricity generation offline, Magness said, or 52,277 megawatts out of 107,514 megawatts of total installed capacity. He couldn’t answer questions during the meeting about the specific reasons why so much generation came offline, but said ERCOT requested information from generators that will help shed light on what brought down power generation.
Because so many power plants were forced to shut down, operators weren’t able to control the outages, rotating them as they have during past events, Magness said. At the same time generation took that major blow, supplies surged to new heights.