ERCOT, power utilities respond to Tropical Storm Harvey

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Conditions in the ERCOT region have remained steady as Tropical Storm Harvey continues, according to ERCOT, and the grid operator continues to see widespread transmission outages, especially near Corpus Christi and Victoria, Texas.

While power to some areas that were affected by Hurricane Harvey have been restored Monday, new outages are likely over the next several days as the tropical storm affects other parts of the ERCOT region, including the Houston area.

ERCOT noted that it continues to work with transmission and power generation owners to protect the overall reliability of the grid.

According to the 8:30 a.m., EDT, Aug. 28 U.S. Department of Energy Infrastructure Security & Energy Restoration “Hurricane Harvey Event Report (Update #5),” Harvey continues to produce heavy rain across southeastern Texas and Louisiana, which has led to flooding. Harvey will continue to impact the region through the middle of the week with an additional 15-25 inches of rain expected through Sept. 1, according to the report.

Harvey made landfall around 11 p.m., EDT, on Aug. 25, between Port Aransas and Port O’Connor in Texas as a category 4 hurricane, the report said, noting that Harvey was the strongest hurricane to impact Texas since 1961, and the first category 4 storm to make landfall in the United States since Hurricane Charley impacted Florida in 2004.

As of 7:30 a.m., EDT, on Aug. 28, there were 1,415 customer outages in Louisiana, and 291,181 customer outages in Texas, the report said.

As of Aug. 27, 22 percent of the oil production and 25.7 percent of the natural gas production in the Gulf of Mexico are shut-in as a precaution, the report said, adding that most refineries were shutdown.

A federal major disaster declaration was approved on Aug. 25, the report noted.

Texas Gov. Greg Abbott on Aug. 28 said that, in response to Harvey, he has activated the entire Texas National Guard, which will assist in the ongoing search and rescue effort, and will be involved in the extensive recovery effort in the aftermath of the storm, according to an Aug. 28 statement from the governor’s office.

The National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA), in a 1 p.m., CDT, Aug. 28, public advisory posted on its website, said that catastrophic and life-threatening flooding continues in southeastern Texas.

“Harvey is currently drifting erratically toward the east-southeast, and a slow motion toward the southeast is expected later today through tonight,” NOAA said. “A gradual turn toward the northeast and a continued slow forward speed are expected Tuesday and Tuesday night. On the forecast track, the center of Harvey is expected to be just offshore of the middle and upper coasts of Texas through Tuesday night.”

Maximum sustained winds are near 40 mph, with higher gusts, NOAA said, adding that some slow intensification is possible during the next 48 hours. Tropical-storm-force winds extend outward up to 175 miles, mainly to the east of the center, NOAA said.

The Public Utility Commission of Texas listed “Hurricane Harvey Outage Links” on its website that included outage maps of such companies as Entergy’s Entergy Texas and American Electric Power’s AEP Texas.

In an 11 a.m., Aug. 28 statement, AEP Texas said that its crews had reduced the number of outages resulting from Hurricane Harvey to about 150,500, compared with the 220,000 consumers left without power at the peak of outages, which occurred at 2 p.m., on Aug. 26.

Thousands of resources have arrived from across the country to help AEP Texas with restoration efforts, the company said, adding that crews from Kentucky, Illinois, Missouri and other states have arrived and are working on restoring power to those impacted by Hurricane Harvey.

Weather continues to play a role in the current restoration plans, the company said, noting that flooding and newly ordered mandatory evacuations in parts of the AEP Texas service territory may impact projected estimated times of restoration.

AEP Texas projects that by 10 p.m., on Aug. 30, crews will have restored power to 95 percent of the customers within the City of Corpus Christi, as well as the Sinton area, the company said, adding that restoration dates and times are still to be determined for Rockport, Port Aransas, Fulton, Woodsboro, Port Lavaca, Lamar and Bayside. The devastation in those communities was the most extreme, the company said, noting that an ETR will be developed when the damage assessment in those areas is completed.

Restoration for most all other areas impacted by the storm is expected to reach the 95 percent completion level by 10 p.m., on Sept. 2, if not sooner, the company said.

Entergy Texas, in a separate Aug. 28 statement, said that at 10 a.m., 28,000 customers were without power, with some areas impossible to access because of the flooded conditions. Those hardest hit areas include Conroe, New Caney, Huntsville and Cleveland, the company said.

Nearly 600 Entergy employees and contractors are working to restore power as quickly and as safely as possible, the company said, adding that that includes resources that have come from Louisiana to assist with restoration, and additional resources have been requested.

Entergy Texas said that it could be several days for power to be restored to most Entergy customers. The continued storms, flooding, high winds and damage resulting from it have hampered restoration efforts, the company said.

Guadalupe Valley Electric Cooperative (GVEC), in a separate Aug. 28 statement, said that while extensive progress has been made on the number of outages from Hurricane Harvey, restoration efforts continue for its members. As of 10 a.m., on Aug. 28, about 3,100 cooperative members were without power, GVEC said, adding that the potential for extended outage periods remains in place through Aug. 28, and could extend beyond, barring weather and road conditions in certain areas.

Currently, concentrations of outages by volume include the Guadalupe County area followed by DeWitt and Lavaca counties, then Gonzales and Wilson counties, GVEC said, noting that it, as well as contract crews, are working to restore as many outages as possible on Aug. 28.

There were about 1,000 members in Guadalupe County and about 1,550 in DeWitt and Lavaca counties who have been without power for, or beyond, 48 hours, GVEC said at the time of posting its statement. Severely damaged lines, equipment, weather, and road conditions are making restoration to certain areas inaccessible at this time, GVEC said.

Austin Energy, in an Aug. 27 statement, said that its service area has been hit hard by sustained high winds and rain associated with Tropical Storm Harvey. As weather continues to move through the area over the next several days, additional outages can be expected to occur, the utility said.

Austin Energy said that its crews will continue working 24/7 until all customers are restored, and that while more than 33,000 customers have had their power restored, full restoration from the storm will take multiple days. Tropical-force wind damage has been widespread, the utility said, noting that trees are down and there are many reports of tree limbs on power lines and downed power lines, as well as snapped and leaning poles.

Austin Energy – which, according to the statement, is a community-owned utility that serves Austin and the surrounding area – said that is quickly making repairs while assessing the full scope of the damage.

CenterPoint Energy, in an Aug. 26 statement, said that it has restored power to more than 175,000 customers throughout its service territory over the last 24 hours. Of the 2.4 million CenterPoint Energy customers, more than 98 percent currently have power, and about 22,000 are without power as of 12 p.m., the company said at the time.

“While our electric system is performing well, patience will be key as some areas will be difficult for our crews to safely access due to flooding, tornado warnings and other safety-related issues,” Kenny Mercado, senior vice president of Electric Operations for CenterPoint Energy, said in the statement. “We’ve also called in additional external contract resources to support our restoration efforts and have established a staging site in Fort Bend County. Additional sites are being evaluated at this time.”

Scott Doyle, senior vice president of Natural Gas Distribution for CenterPoint Energy, said in the statement, “Our natural gas distribution system in the greater Houston area is functioning normally; however, crews are responding to gas leak calls in Sinton, Texas, near Corpus Christi, primarily due to toppled trees which have uprooted gas lines.”

The Midcontinent ISO (MISO), in an Aug. 25 statement, said that it entered severe weather alert status in preparation for the impact of Harvey. MISO – which, as noted in the statement, operates the transmission grid across parts of Arkansas, Louisiana, Mississippi and Texas – said that it declared a severe weather alert beginning on Aug. 24, effective through Aug. 28.

The Louisiana Public Service Commission, in an Aug. 24 statement, encouraged residents to be vigilant during the storm, including by reporting downed power lines. Similarly, Cleco, in an Aug. 25 statement, urged its customers to prepare for the possibility of strong winds and flooding. Cleco said that it was closely monitoring Harvey's predicted path, with resources on stand-by, ready to respond.

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