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Ercot Rolling Blackouts This Summer: What You Should Know

electric grid and lines that can cause rolling blackouts or power outages
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Texans are all too familiar with Ercot rolling blackouts after the winter storm this past February. The winter storm’s effects began causing rolling blackouts and extended periods of time without power. This caused statewide blackouts, leaving many in unsafe conditions in homes that weren’t properly insulated for the weather. 

However, the ercot rolling blackouts aren’t just subject to that winter storm meltdown, as they’ve released that there’s excess strain on the grid happening already, in the middle of June. As Summer fully sets in and higher temperatures are expected, should we expect additional Ercot rolling blackouts? Short answer, yes. There’s a reason for the breakdown, and ways to help your fellow Texans in avoiding another electric grid meltdown. 

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Understanding the Texas Grid

First, it’s important to understand the Texas grid. Texas is operated through the Texas Interconnection, an alternating current power grid that services most of Texas. This is run by the Electric Reliability Council of Texas, otherwise known as ERCOT. The power grid is deregulated. Having a deregulated power grid means that there isn’t just one company that owns all the power plants, distribution networks, and transmission lines. Instead, there’s an open market and dozens of options. 

young child reading close to lamp during a rolling blackout

What Happened In February

Snow and extremely cold temperatures in Texas aren’t common, so when temperatures dropped below freezing and snow started falling, it sent everyone into a frenzy, both good and bad. Quickly, the state went from snowball fights to finding ways to conserve energy to avoid rolling blackouts. However, the efforts couldn’t keep the blackouts from happening. Homes, businesses, and apartment complexes lost power. 

ERCOT is an independent nonprofit, managing the price of power, supply, and demand to the grid. According to them, they were only seconds and minutes away from a catastrophic failure of the grid, resulting in monthslong blackouts. They also said that the demand on the electric grid topped 69 gigawatts, a record amount of demand during the winter. The main goal was for ERCOT to keep supply and demand online, fearing that an imbalance could lead to damaging the equipment, rearing it damaged for weeks. Therefore, the idea of rolling blackouts began, as a way to lessen the strain on the grid. During that time, nearly 75% of Texans lost power. 

What’s Happening Now

So how does that relate to what is happening now? Ideally, you’d like to believe that since Texas is used to extreme heat, the grid failure won’t happen again. Unfortunately, that just isn’t the case. Earlier this week, on June 14, ERCOT once again asked Texans to conserve their homes’ energy to avoid rolling blackouts this week. 

If you remember back to February,  the issue wasn’t so much the frigid weather conditions, but rather it was the strain on the electric grid. With extreme temperatures comes extreme power draws. Nobody wants to sweat or shiver in their home, using up a large amount of energy. 

What’s so different about this time around, isn’t Texas used to the heat? In their news release, ERCOT says it comes down to the potential record electric use and low wind speed. They said that generator owners reported approximately 11,000 megawatts (MW) of generation, with 8,000 MW for thermal. An average thermal generation on a summer day is around 3,600 MW. They also reported that one MW powers around 200 homes during the summer. 

In response to the tightening grid limits, they’ve asked all Texas residents to reduce their energy consumption in their homes. While ERCOT remains in the assumption that blackouts “appear unlikely” for this current strain, they do warn about the potential for ERCOT rolling blackouts to occur in an electricity crisis this summer. 

solar panel on orange roof

Is Now the Time To Switch to Solar? 

With the electric grid that seems fragile to extreme temperatures, you might be wondering if now is the time to make the switch to a solar energy system. Solar energy is a clean energy source that uses the sun’s heat to transform it into electricity. This happens through a process called a photovoltaic effect. Additionally, a solar panel system uses an inverter to take the gathered energy and convert it into usable electricity for your home and appliances. 

Solar panels work best on southern facing roofs at a 30 degree angle. However, east and west facing roofs are efficient as well, with the placed angle being anywhere from 15 to 40. 

It’s always a great time to make the change to a solar powered system, and right now is no different. With two different weather emergencies compromising the grid in less than four months, everyone should consider making the change to a clean and renewable energy source right in your household. 

How Would Solar Energy Help With Rolling Blackouts? 

Unfortunately, solar panels don’t function during a blackout for a couple different reasons. For the most part, the reason that solar panels don’t continually operate during a blackout is due to safety reasons. Whenever there is electricity, there has to be a steady supply for full functionality. When there’s solar, your supply and demand for generated power shifts and changes depending on the current household needs. Given that there isn’t a steady and consistent demand, your system automatically moves the excess energy to the grid. The grid then provides the power as a backup resource for your home. When there’s power outages or blackouts, the grid can’t stabilize all that power. The other reason is due to the safety of the crews. To avoid endangering the lives of the workers, solar current stops going to the power lines. 

So What Do You Do If You Want Solar and Want To Avoid Rolling Blackouts? 

The answer comes down to solar batteries and generators to act as a backup option. Having a battery or generator is an amazing tool for those who use solar energy. These backup systems take any previously generated energy and store it, rather than sending the excess supply to the grid. That way, when the power goes out due to any circumstance, your home begins running on your stored energy. These backup generators and batteries run so efficiently that your day continues on like normal, and you might not even notice that your power has gone out. 

When it comes to rolling blackouts, the thought is that your home goes from powered, to unpowered, back to powered in routine sessions to offload the grid demand. With a backup generator and battery, your home will start storing power again as soon as the blackout is over. This way, you can work in a routine to store energy, use the stored energy, then begin storing again.  There are pros and cons to solar batteries and generators, so read our blog to see which option works best for you. 

Looking for different generator and battery options for your solar panels? Here is our guide to some of the most efficient options for purchase today. 

Powerlines standing up against a dark, cloudy sky.

Other Ways to Conserve Energy to Avoid Ercot Rolling Blackouts

Here are some of the best ways to conserve energy in the summer months, according to Just Energy

  • Check your air conditioning unit to make sure it’s functioning properly and efficiently. Neglecting maintenance ensures poor performance and using high energy use
  • Use LED light bulbs instead of fluorescent or incandescent bulbs. LED’s are the most efficient light bulb, using 75% less energy, work 25% longer, and stay cooler than a conventional incandescent light bulb.
  • Replace your air filter to ensure that it isn’t clogged or dirty. This reduces your air conditioner’s ability to absorb heat and blocks normal air flow. Replacing a dirty air filter can help lower your AC usage by up to 15%
  • Raise the temperature of your thermostat. I know, this is a tough one. ERCOT suggested setting the thermostat to above 78 degrees. 
  • Close your blinds and use curtains to bring in more heat from the sun, causing your AC to work harder to keep the area cool. 
  • Run a ceiling fan with your air conditioning to move the existing cool air around and creating a better air flow
  • Make sure your ceiling fan is running the right way, you can reset the direction of your fan by the motor. You want to have counterclockwise in the summer, and clockwise in the winter
  • Use an energy efficient dehumidifier to keep lower humidity, making your home feel cooler than normal
  • Avoid using your oven as that adds unwanted heat. Instead, use a microwave, slow cooker or your outdoor grill
  • Use your washing machines, dryers, and dishwasher at night and only with full loads. For washing your clothes, use colder water, and consider air drying some of your bulkier items. 
  • Unplug items that aren’t being used, such as your toaster, electronics, or other household appliances

two men installing solar panels on roof

Make the Switch to Solar, Starting Today

Having solar energy is a great choice, between creating your own energy and not relying on the state grid, and the cost benefits. This is a sustainable option that every household should consider. 

If you have any questions regarding solar energy, or if you’re looking to convert your home or business to a sustainable energy source, contact ONIT Home today. Our team of experts are here to answer questions and provide you with a free quote. To find out more, visit us online or call us today at 1-833-433-0331 to speak with a live representative.

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