COMMENT OF THE DAY RUNNER-UP: EAST END POWER GRID COULDN’T HANDLE THE HEAT
“There was a blackout in my area, East End of Downtown, that night (July 23, 2018). We were without power for nearly 2 hours. Per a neighbor, CenterPoint relayed that over 900 homes were without power. There wasn’t a light on within visibility. Suddenly there was silence, except for my scream of ‘Nooooo!’ that apparently was heard all the way down the block. I called CenterPoint, whose automated message stated ‘A power outage has been reported in your area. The estimated time for repair is 11:45pm.’ Power was indeed restored at about that time, though can’t say that we enjoyed the heat through the wait.” [Corbin Dodge, commenting on Texas Electric Customers Are on a Record-Breaking Power Usage Spree] Illustration: Lulu
TEXAS ELECTRIC CUSTOMERS ARE ON A RECORD-BREAKING POWER USAGE SPREE
Texas customers shattered the state’s previous all-time 71,110 megawatt high for power usage last Wednesday and Thursday, reports the Chronicle’s L.M. Sixel. And today, they’ve done it again: 73,217 megawatts is the current demand, according to ERCOT, the operator that supplies most of the state’s energy. (It’s expected to increase through the late afternoon, peaking at around 5 p.m.) That’s enough juice to power, well, the entire state of Texas during a heatwave. But is it enough to overwhelm the state’s proudly independent power infrastructure? Unlikely, says at least one expert at UT’s Energy Institute. Although 2 NRG subsidiaries did send out emails last week pleading with their customers to ease up on the A/C and take other watt-saving measures. [Houston Chronicle] Photo of electric lines between 59 and Westpark Dr.: Swamplox inbox
Thieves made off with copper wiring from UH’s University Center late Saturday night, a UH public safety department bulletin reports: A contractor noticed early Sunday morning that the wiring had gone missing; a reader tells Swamplot that this knocked out thebuilding’s power and is delaying renovations. The Barnes & Noble and Cougar Byte stores inside the UC have been scrambling to set up temporary locations elsewhere on campus.
A reader who happened upon an outing of Blink stations at Memorial Park sends in this photo evidence that the commercial electric-vehicle chargers are multiplying. Two Blink stations at the nearby Houston Arboretum had been installed by the September 8th rollout of a city-wide drive-electric program. A total of 200 Blink-brand stations are being installed in the Houston area.
A spokesperson tells Swamplot the map above gives a “pretty good” indication of where you’ll soon be able to find electric-vehicle charging stations in the new eVgo network announced today by NRG Energy. NRG says it will put “convenience” stations in parking lots in front of Best Buy, Spec’s, H-E-B, and 18 Walgreens stores, as well as faster-charging “freedom” stations in various locations along freeways, in shopping and business districts, and in other parking lots around Harris County. The company expects to have 50 Houston stations in place by the middle of next year — 150 by the time the network is complete — but no specific locations have been announced yet. NRG, which owns Reliant Energy, is calling Houston’s eVgo “the nation’s first privately funded, comprehensive electric vehicle (EV) ecosystem” but the second and third ecosystems shouldn’t be too far behind: The company plans to begin the rollout of similar setups “across Texas” next year. The first Houston stations should be ready to spout electrons in February.
Since February, about half the residents of Oak Ridge North, a small city just across I-45 from the Woodlands, have been getting their electricity from chicken fat. The nation’s first entirely biodiesel-generated electrical plant, run by Biofuels Power Corp., supplies power to the community. The fuel comes from a sister company, Safe Renewables, which runs a plant two miles away that can create biodiesel from vegetable oils too. But chicken fat is apparently plentiful around here, so Oak Ridge north gets powered by schmaltz.
The power facility has the capacity to produce approximately 5 MW of electricity using three used diesel Caterpillar generators that act as a single source of power. At full load, they use 72 gallons of biodiesel per MW hour. An interesting feature is that waste heat from the generators is used to keep the fuel tank warm and prevent . . . the biodiesel from gelling. The company is experimenting with various additives to decrease emissions and increase efficiency. “We hope to get down to 60 gallons per megawatt hour,” Crimmins says.
When’s poultry power coming to the rest of Houston? Well, there’s that pesky nitrogen-oxide-that-becomes-ozone emissions problem. We hope they’ll be able to keep that French fry smell out of the AC, too.