Winter Storm Power Outage
March 2, 2021
Texans have always taken great pride in their strength and independence, and the Lone Star State is no stranger to tapping into those trademark qualities to get past all sorts of crises. Many such difficult situations stem from natural disasters — usually staggering summer heat or a devastating hurricane. But recently, millions of Texans were without power for prolonged periods after plummeting temperatures knocked out the Texas power grid.
Fortunately, by taking a close 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. But when Winter Storm Uri caused the second-lowest Texas temperatures on record, the independent power grid couldn’t handle the combination of increased demand and loss of generators — resulting in a loss of power for millions of people, in some places for days on end.
Because more than half of Texas homes use electric heat, a power outage clearly means no heat in the face of subzero temperatures. But the full measure of the outage’s fallout may be less clear for those used to dealing with warmer climates.
In addition to dangerous road conditions, dozens of cold-related deaths and a rush on basic supplies, pipes froze throughout the state. This left many to deal with flooding and water shortages when temperatures rose.
To make matters worse, many saw skyrocketing utility bills as power providers sought to recoup their costs. While it’s safe to say that many of the massive bills that went viral on social media received some sort of short-term forgiveness, this undoubtedly led to a sharp rise in the average cost of electricity. Ultimately, consumers were responsible for fixing a problem they didn’t cause.
PREPARING FOR FUTURE OUTAGES
On a positive note, countless Texans learned to prepare for future major power outages. Many of the problems that arise from extreme winter weather in a southern state are unavoidable due to a lack of infrastructure. In other words, don’t expect snow-clearing machinery to be readily available for a once-per-decade need.
But individual Texans can take plenty of precautions. Here are some reliable failsafe measures:
- Stock up in advance! Make sure you have plenty of the essentials (bottled water, nonperishable food, toilet paper) on hand. 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 giant strain on the system, you might be unable to keep things as warm as you’d like, but you can reduce pressure on the grid by lowering the heater a few degrees and turning off some lights or appliances.
- Invest in backup power. Installing a solar battery or home generator can make all the difference. By doing so, you can keep the heat on — as well as the lights and refrigerator — when the grid goes out (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 1 million households already running on solar (second only to California). And that number is only climbing. You might not consider solar effective when cold weather is the issue, but solar panels work well in the winter, and battery systems can store solar power for dire situations.
Your preparation can begin and end with solar.
Having both 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. The energy collected from your solar panels flows into your home battery, keeping it charged. The home battery then acts as a generator, so you can 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.
Benefits of Solar Power During a Power Outage
Rob D., a Freedom Solar customer with a Tesla Powerwall, was one of the lucky folks who avoided the effects of the Texas outage during and after the storm. A resident of Northwest Houston, Rob has 22 SunPower solar panels with a capacity of 7.98 kW, offsetting 99% of his usage.
Rob spoke 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 had in the midst of the storm, Rob took note of a detail that makes solar the best energy solution as utility prices steadily rise throughout Texas. Over the course of 2020, their total utility spend was about $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 more vital than ever. When 4 million Texans lost power during the 2021 winter storm, businesses ground to a halt. Backup power for offices has now become a huge priority for many workers nationwide.
If every home and business had been equipped with solar power and home batteries, those panicked days would have looked very different.
SECURE YOUR SAFETY WITH ENERGY INDEPENDENCE
We know 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.