High winds and significant flooding along the Texas Gulf Coast substantially impacted the Texas electricity grid. The transmission and distribution infrastructure sustained severe damage in the southern portion of the state as a result of Harvey’s landfall. 10,000 megawatts of electricity was lost to the grid according to the Electric Reliability Council of Texas (ERCOT).
The loss of generation capacity was offset by a large drop in electricity demand across the state. The loss in demand was a direct result of downed transmission lines. Leaving hundreds of thousands of Texans without power at times. The grid also benefited from a drop in temperatures across the state during the period when the loss of capacity was at its greatest.
Many factors associated with the storm combined to reduce electricity output. Several power plants went offline as a result of flooding that impacted the delivery of fuel supplies to the generator facilities. These same transportation difficulties kept personnel needed to run the plants from getting to work.
Near the coast where winds exceeded 130 miles per hour, many high voltage transmission lines were taken out of service by the damaging winds. Further inland in the Houston area, flooding took a larger toll on transmission facilities. Capacity was also lost due to loss of wind power. Wind turbines are turned off when wind exceeds 55 mph in order to avoid damaging the equipment.
Power loss along with the failure of a backup generator were to blame for explosions at the Arkema chemical plant. The plant stored chemicals that become volatile when not cooled to a certain temperature.
Meanwhile, many electricity providers in Texas stepped up to help in relief and rebuilding efforts. NRG, the parent company of Reliant Energy and several other electric brands in Texas donated one million dollars to organizations including the Red Cross, and the J.J. Watt Houston Flood Relief Fund. Direct Energy, the parent company of Bounce energy and the Direct Energy retail brand is matching donations up to $25,000 the Red Cross. TXU Energy is allocating $500,000 to help customers who are unable to pay their electric bills in the wake of Harvey.