ERCOT’s Energy Emergency Alert and Solar

ERCOT's Energy Emergency Alert and Solar

The Electric Reliability Council of Texas (ERCOT) knew that this summer would be hot. They, however, weren’t prepared for the August heat.

On August 13th ERCOT issued a level 1 energy emergency alert. It was then followed by another one two days later. Across the state, there have been sporadic outages and ERCOT can’t seem to keep on it.

This is distressing for the people of Texas. It means they can’t count on their house being cool when they get home.

However, what is more distressing, is the jobs that are dependent on consistent power. Every hour without power is an hour employees can’t do their job. This cuts into profits and paychecks.

Electricity Emergency Alert Levels

When ERCOT sends out an alert they aren’t messing around. With over 25 million customers, they only call an emergency when it is necessary.

There are 3 levels of electricity emergency alerts (EEA). Each of these alerts is a sign that the grid is having a hard time keeping up with the demand.

Although each alert does mean that customers should conserve energy. Some are more severe than others.

Taking a Look at Level 1 EEA

A level 1 alert means that operating reserves have dipped below 2,300 megawatts (MW). The recovery time for these reverses will most likely be over half an hour.

In response to this level, ERCOT can call on all available energy resources for help. This includes other nearby grids.

 What a Level 2 EEA Looks Like

Level 2 alerts get issued when reserves are below 1,750 MW. During this alert reserves are also not expected to come back online for over half an hour.

In response, large industrial customers, that have agreed to it, have their power shut off. This helps alleviate the load on the grid. 

Level 3 EEA: Lights Out!

During a level 3 alert reserves are below 1,375 MW.  It is also expected to take longer than half an hour for the reserves to come back online.

If the reserves go below 1,000 mega-watts ERCOT will start routing planned outages. Transmission companies take turns turning off their customer’s power. This power is then rerouted to help alleviate the strain on the grid.

This means that every so many hours residents can plan on not having power for essentials. Not a fun experience, but better than an unplanned interruption.

ERCOT Peak Hours and Emergency Alerts

Emergency alerts happen because the grid has too much strain. This strain is often during peak hours.

Peak hours are the hours when more electricity is being pulled off the grid. Often, this is in the evenings because that is when most people are home.

When an emergency alert is in effect ERCOT asks people in the area to conserve their energy use. Especially during times of the day where energy use is high.

This means turning down air conditioners in the middle of the blistering summer. It means using high energy appliances, such as washing machines and dishwashers, less often and during off-peak hours.

This is hard to do. Especially when no one is home during off-peak hours to do these household chores.

Energy Emergencies Mitigated with Residential Solar

One way to help solve this problem is with residential solar. Utility companies already have large amounts of power available to them. However, it still isn’t enough to create grid continuity.

Using alternative power such as wind and hydro is great. However, each of these renewable energy sources requires a lot of space and investment.

The obvious solution is to implement unused space in a creative way. That is where residential solar comes into play.

Unlike the other energy sources on the market, solar arrays can be on a roof. This is a space that could use a duel purpose.

 Alleviate the Grid Load With Solar

When a homeowner has solar on their roof, they often overproduce during the day. This is to compensate for the energy pulled off the grid at night and/or during bad weather. The system would alleviate the strain on the grid during the day.

However, the issue is that solar arrays, on their own, don’t store this extra energy for later. Which forces them to pull power off the grid in the evening.

This, however, doesn’t need to be the case. Because when combined with solar battery backup this excess electricity can be stored. Homes with battery backup relieves the strain on the grid at all times.

Homes with battery backup also have an added benefit. They can stay on when the power goes out. 

Use Solar During an Outage

Advertisements for solar arrays showcase solar panels as an emergency preparedness tool. However, without battery backup, this isn’t the case.

This is because solar panels only generate electricity when the sun is out. When the sun is down so it the solar array.

Another key reason is that solar can’t run while the grid is down. This is because line workers are trying to fix the grid.

It is illegal for a solar array, connected to the grid, to be on during an outage. Which is why it is a requirement for all solar arrays to have automatic shut off switches.

However, with battery backup, this is a different story. Battery backup isn’t connected to the grid and so it can power your home when the grid is down.

Not every solar company offers battery backup let alone battery backup options. This, however, is Go Solar Group’s forte. Because Go Solar Group is a solar backup expert, they have options for every homeowner’s energy needs.

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