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Power outages seen in region; Blackouts ordered to protect system

Electric utility company Oncor began a sequence of rotating power outages Wednesday morning across Texas. The outages began just before 6 a.m. and were discontinued at about 2:45 p.m. But the Electric Reliability Council of Texas said more interrutions may occur today.

Electric utility company Oncor began a sequence of rotating power outages Wednesday morning across Texas that affected many residents in Wichita Falls.

The outages began just before 6 a.m. and were discontinued at about 2:45 p.m.

But in another apparent change of mind, the Electric Reliability Council of Texas said more interrutions may occur today.

A news release from ERCOT late Wedneday mentioned the possibility of more rotating outages.

"ERCOT is asking consumers to reduce energy consumption during peak-demand times ...from 6 - 8 a.m.," the release said.

According to an Oncor news release, "rotating outages are controlled, temporary interruptions of electric service."

The ERCOT instructed utility companies to begin the rotating outages to avoid overloading generators. More than 50 electricity generating plants went off-line before 6 a.m. because of the low temperatures, reducing electric capacity by 7,000 megawatts, according Oncor.

According to an ERCOT news release, "One megawatt is roughly enough to power 200 homes in extreme temperatures."

The outages were a preventative measure taken to avoid a regionwide power outage, said Mike Nieto of Oncor.

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Electric utility company Oncor began a sequence of rotating power outages Wednesday morning across Texas that affected many residents in Wichita Falls.

The outages began just before 6 a.m. and were discontinued at about 2:45 p.m.

But in another apparent change of mind, the Electric Reliability Council of Texas said more interrutions may occur today.

A news release from ERCOT late Wedneday mentioned the possibility of more rotating outages.

"ERCOT is asking consumers to reduce energy consumption during peak-demand times ...from 6 - 8 a.m.," the release said.

According to an Oncor news release, "rotating outages are controlled, temporary interruptions of electric service."

The ERCOT instructed utility companies to begin the rotating outages to avoid overloading generators. More than 50 electricity generating plants went off-line before 6 a.m. because of the low temperatures, reducing electric capacity by 7,000 megawatts, according Oncor.

According to an ERCOT news release, "One megawatt is roughly enough to power 200 homes in extreme temperatures."

The outages were a preventative measure taken to avoid a regionwide power outage, said Mike Nieto of Oncor.

Each neighborhood outage was expected to last from 10 to 45 minutes.

ERCOT has a randomized system that picks blocks of customers during outages, which made predicting a scheduled outage time for Oncor customers impossible, Nieto said.

Most residents of Wichita Falls were given reverse 911 Code Red phone calls to inform them Oncor was performing the outages and that they should be prepared, said John Henderson, emergency preparedness coordinator for Wichita Falls.

The message was sent after the city received hundreds of calls from residents who were reporting the outages. The Code Red calls were approved and started about 10:15 a.m., Henderson said.

"I think the message was caught and most people understand it," he said.

Oncor is unaware where the outages began, but throughout the day, outages affected most of ERCOT's region, Nieto said.

According to Oncor, the ERCOT region includes Houston, Dallas, Fort Worth, San Antonio, Austin, Corpus Christi, Abilene and Rio Grande Valley.

Rotating outages mainly affected residential neighborhoods and businesses. Hospitals and nursing homes were supposedly not included.

Oncor warned that some customers could have had longer outages if there was a power surge, which causes equipment failures. To minimize the chance of a surge, residential customers were encouraged to turn off all non-essential appliances and large businesses were asked to consider shutting down unnecessary production.

Gov. Rick Perry released a statement Wednesday about the outages.

"Because of winter weather conditions that have created an unprecedented demand on the state's energy grid, many Texans across our state are experiencing power outages today," Perry said. "Texas power and emergency management experts are working very closely with ERCOT and various utility providers to ensure power is restored as quickly as possible. Until that happens, I urge businesses and residents to conserve electricity to minimize the impact of this event."

According to ERCOT, some electric consumers still do not have power because of winter weather conditions, not because of the rotating outages.

Oncor reported 55,000 customers without electricity statewide Monday at dawn. Most of the power outages were in the Dallas area, with nearly 43,000 homes and business without power. Fort Worth had about 1,000 customers without electricity, according to Oncor.

Other utility companies are also having trouble with the freezing temperatures.

Natural gas company Atmos Energy issued a curtailment order at noon Wednesday, according to a news release.

"We are either curtailing or interrupting all industrial customers North of I-30 in the Dallas, Rockwall and Tarrant counties.

In addition, all industrial customers are curtailed or interrupted in Denton, Collin, Cooke and Grayson counties. This curtailment order to industrials is issued to ensure adequate supply to our residential and commercial customers," John Paris, president of Atmos Energy Mid-Tex Division, said in a news release.

According to a news release, Atmos Energy encourages customers to conserve the gas supply by setting thermostats to 65 degrees and wearing layers in the home, limiting hot water use during peak hours in the morning and closing drapes and blinds to keep heat inside the home.


Source: http://www.timesrecordnews....

FEB 3 2011
http://www.windaction.org/posts/29885-power-outages-seen-in-region-blackouts-ordered-to-protect-system
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