Texas Winter Storm Energy Crisis


Power outages in San Marcos, TX following the Winter Storm (Source: Reuters)

A couple of weeks ago, disaster struck Texas. In late February, three severe winter storms hit many parts of the United States and ended up reaching Texas. Texas usually is not the type of state to get drenched in snow. It is a warm and sunny state with humidity. When the disaster struck, Texas was not ready. As a community, they did not have all the resources and equipment needed to withstand the storms. After most of the damage was done, over 4.5 million homes and businesses were left without power, lasting several days for some. This put a wrench in many people’s agendas especially with the pandemic going around. Many people were unable to attend meetings both online and in person.

One impact was the power plants. In Texas, there are two major nuclear power plants. The South Texas Project (STP), located around 90 miles southwest of Houston, was impacted greatly. Due to the winter crisis, the reactor had to shut down, knocking out around 1350 megawatts of generating capacity. That plant provided power to over two million Texas homes. Weather shutdowns of the power plant are uncommon, as they are known to provide carbon-free power around the clock. According to the Nuclear Regulatory Commission, the reactor was shut down due to a problem with the water pump. This caused the plant to stop immediately and shut down early on Monday. According to Alex Gilbert, a project manager at the Nuclear Innovation Alliance, It had something to do with the connection between the power plant and the outside systems impacted by the cold weather and precipitation.