JACKSONVILLE, Fla. – Millions of people are without power after prolonged record cold stressed an electric grid incapable of handling the energy surge.
Demand for power throughout the Plains states swelled, forcing utilities to institute rolling blackouts, which left people without electricity during record cold and snow.
The crisis in Texas hit the world’s third-biggest gas producer especially hard and some are looking to place blame more on the nation’s electric grid than the temperatures.
Could a prolonged cold spell leave thousands in Jacksonville in the dark?
It is highly unlikely because of two factors: the electric grid system is more reliable in Florida and our area is more immune to sustained cold spells.
First, our climate. Yes, we get freezes, but the Gulf and Atlantic quickly moderate the intensity to just a couple of days before our strong Florida sunshine breaks the cycle.
In contrast, for the rest of the lower 48 states, nearly three-quarters is covered by snow through Tuesday, Feb. 16. This marks the highest daily coverage since 2003.
It also explains the truly unusual single-digit temperatures: frozen ground makes the air colder and the whiteness or high albedo of the snow further reflects heat away from the people looking to stay warm.
Freezing temps ruptured gas lines and battered coal suppliers, which sent power generating plants offline, including the growing number of wind farms in Texas that collected ice.
We certainly don’t have these problems nor do we use the same electric grid which has proven fraught with issues in Texas.
Texas is on its own power grid standing alone compared to the two other grids in the continental United States.
Nearly 90% of the power in Texas is managed by ERCOT, which oversees grid reliability and coordinates the transport of energy from various power generators.
Whereas Florida is managed by the Florida Reliability Coordinating Council (FRCC), a group of power producers that shares supply nationally with the Eastern Interconnection.
Texas does not send power across state lines and is not bound to jurisdiction by the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission.
While the rest of the country is interconnected, Texas is isolated by choice. The Lone Star State benefits from less regulation but it comes at a cost when regional energy suppliers go offline.
While Texas has diversified power with nuclear and other various sources, including wind, which has surpassed coal use, this week underscores how an improved delivery system of energy across the nation can provide reliability.
A resource especially important to us come hurricane season.