Winter Storm Power Outage
March 2, 2021
Texas has always taken great pride in its strength and independence, and the Lone Star State is no stranger to using those trademark qualities to get past all sorts of crises. Many of those difficult situations stem from natural disasters — typically staggering summer heats or a devastating hurricane. But recently, millions of Texans across the state found themselves without power for prolonged periods after plummeting temperatures delivered a KO to the Texas power grid.
Fortunately, by taking a closer look at the damage and what caused it, Texans can prepare for next time. Distributed solar helps keep the power on during a storm.
FEBRUARY 2021: AN UNPRECEDENTED OUTAGE
Everything’s bigger in Texas, as the saying goes, so it should come as no surprise that the state is the largest energy consumer in the country. Unfortunately, as the recent Winter Storm Uri caused the second-lowest Texas temperatures on record, the independent power grid was unable to handle the combination of increased demand and loss of generators due to the cold — resulting in a loss of power for millions of people, in some places for days on end.
With more than half of Texas homes using electric heat, a power outage obviously means no heat in the face of subzero temperatures, but the full measure of the fallout from the outage is perhaps less obvious for those used to dealing with warmer climates. In addition to treacherous road conditions, dozens of deaths related to the cold, and a rush on basic food and supplies, pipes froze throughout the state, leaving many to deal with flooding and water shortages once the temperatures rose.
Adding insult to injury, many are already seeing skyrocketing utility bills as power providers seek to recoup their costs. While it’s safe to say that many of the massive bills that have gone viral on social media will see some sort of forgiveness in the short term, this will all no doubt lead to a sharp rise in the average cost of electricity moving forward. Ultimately, consumers will be responsible for fixing a problem they did not cause.
PREPARING FOR FUTURE OUTAGES
The silver lining to all of this is how countless Texans will learn to prepare for future power outages like this one. Many of the problems that arise from extreme winter weather in a southern state are unavoidable due to a lack of infrastructure — don’t expect snow-clearing machinery to be kept in reserve for a once-a-decade need. However, there are plenty of precautions individual Texans can take.
Some major failsafe measures include:
- Stock up in advance! Make sure that you have plenty of the essentials (bottled water, non-perishable food, toilet paper) on hand for the next time a scarcity arises. That way, you can stay safe at home and not worry about a store running out of what you need.
- Decrease your demand. When dealing with a major strain on the system, you might not be able to keep things as warm as you’d like, but you can reduce the strain on the grid by lowering the heater a few degrees and turning off unnecessary lights or appliances.
- Invest in backup power. Installing a solar battery or home generator can make all the difference by enabling you to keep the heat on, as well as the lights and refrigerator, when the grid experiences an outage (more on that below)!
STORE AND SAVE WITH SOLAR
The biggest power outage solution is simple: find a system that won’t fail when you need it. Texas is no stranger to solar power, with close to a million households already running on solar (second only to California), and that number is only increasing. You might not consider solar in a situation where cold weather is the issue, but solar panels function effectively in the winter, and battery systems can store solar power for a situation exactly like this. Your preparation can begin and end with solar.
Having the combination of solar panels and a home battery installed can give you an alternative to the electric grid when you need it and set you up for energy independence in an emergency situation. The energy collected from your solar panels is channeled into your home battery, keeping it charged for just such an occasion. The home battery then essentially acts as a generator, allowing you to use electricity in your home by drawing it from the battery. The most popular models of home batteries are the Tesla Powerwall and LG Chem.
Rob D., a Freedom Solar customer with a Tesla Powerwall, was one of the lucky residents who avoided the effects of the recent Texas outage during the storm and its aftermath. A resident of Northwest Houston, Rob has 22 SunPower solar panels that have a capacity of 7.98 kW, offsetting 99% of his usage. He had this to say about that harrowing week: “Couldn’t even tell when the grid was off or on! [My] app says we were without power for over 60 hours last week! Neighbors were coming over to charge their phones. Our gas furnace worked fine on the Powerwall . . . Even on the cloudiest days, our panels still made enough energy to actually run the house without drawing down the battery.”
On top of the protection his family received in the midst of the storm, Rob took note of a detail that makes solar the best energy solution as utility prices rise throughout Texas. Over the course of 2020, their total utility spend was an estimated $100. And on their last bill from TXU, the utility company actually owed Rob $80.
In the new age of working from home, energy independence is even more vital than ever. When 4 million Texans lost power during 2021’s winter storm, businesses ground to a halt. Backup power for offices has now become a huge priority for many at-home workers throughout the country. If every home and business had been equipped with solar power and home batteries, those disconnected, panicked days would have looked wholly different.
SECURE YOUR SAFETY WITH ENERGY INDEPENDENCE
We know that Texans value their independence, and they can extend that independence to their energy needs — especially the next time a natural disaster threatens their safety. To find out how you can save money and keep your home prepared with a tried-and-true storm power solution, contact us for a free solar power quote today.