Houston Has a Problem: Microgrids Could Help

Industry News – April 16, 2021

After the extensive damage caused by the winter storm in Texas in mid-February, the city of Houston is considering setting up microgrids for critical infrastructure such as water treatment facilities. According to Mayor Sylvester Turner, microgrids are being examined as a solution to ensure power supply 24/7.

During the storm, emergency generators in Houston also partially failed, and water pressure fell below the regulatory requirement. The combination of no power and low water pressure affected hospitals, police stations, dialysis clinics and even firefighters, Turner said. When power was restored and water pressure started to return, 5,000 homes and 400 apartment buildings in Houston had busted water pipes, he said.

The mid-February storm had brought frigid temperatures to Texas, freezing power plants and natural gas equipment while electricity use soared to a record level. One-third of all Texas power plants, especially gas-fired power plants, were down. To reduce consumption and stabilize the power grid, The Electric Reliability Council of Texas (ERCOT), which runs most of the grid in the state, responded by ordering blackouts that lasted for four days. As the Texas power grid is only weakly connected to the power grids in the rest of the country, the high demand could not be offset by power plants in other regions either. As a result, some 4.5 million customers had no electricity.

Houston Considers Microgrids After Winter Outages

Last August, Houston already entered into a contract with Enchanted Rock, a Houston-based microgrid company, for a 30 MW microgrid to serve a water purification plant. The natural gas-fueled resiliency microgrid solution will provide facility backup for 100 percent of the required finished water production capacity during outages. The City of Houston Northeast Water Purification Plant (NEWPP) Expansion facility is scheduled for completion in spring 2022. Enchanted Rock has already about 200 microgrids in texas. These managed to cover 97.3 percent of the outage-hours of its commercial and industrial customers over the course of February’s disaster, according to Allan Schurr, the company’s chief commercial officer. Of those 200, about 130 had been supplying capacity to aid the grid. (SP)

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