Good Question: What is condition of North Carolina’s power grid?

Good Question: What is condition of North Carolina's power grid?

CHARLOTTE, N.C. (WBTV) - Viewers have been asking questions about topics we’ve been covering.

This Good Question comes after the deep freeze-induced power problems in Texas.

We’ve all seen the misery many have been living through.

More than 4.3 million people lost power as temperatures in Houston dipped to 13 degrees last week. Austin sank to 6 degrees and Amarillo went all the way down to minus 11.

The power outages had people doing anything and everything to stay warm. Some left the state and some looked for a warming shelter.

Demand surged as everyone was cranking the heat. Supply though cratered.

At the worst of it, in a six-hour stretch, the U.S. Energy Information Administration says wind generation fell by 32 percent, coal dropped 13 percent and Natural Gas, which is the big supplier in Texas, dropped 25 percent.

We got this email from a viewer who wants to remain anonymous:

“Looking at what is happening in the state of Texas, what is the condition of North Carolina’s power grid?” Good Question.

For some answers, we reached out to Duke Energy’s Sam Holeman, the Vice President of Transmission System Planning & Operations.

OYST: I’m curious, as someone who does this sort of thing for a living as you were watching all of this unfold in Texas, what were you thinking about?

Holeman: “My first thought was it brought like operational experience and memories from 2014 and 2015 here in the Carolinas. Do you remember the polar vortex touched a little farther East and we saw that same extreme temperature?

We didn’t get the ice in the snow that Texas is getting, but we got those cold single-digit pictures and highs not getting out of the 20s for multiple days and I remembered how challenging winter conditions can be.”

OYST: Is that challenging because of what it does to the equipment, or is it just because demand goes up so high?

Holeman: “So, it can be a combination of both. But winter adds another component that summer does not, and that is the snow and the ice and snow, and the ice can affect equipment.”

OYST: And my understanding is that it sounds like a lot of the power plant. Certainly, the deeper South is not in enclosed buildings, right? So, they are exposed, you know, in some cases to these elements when a cold snap like this happens there, they’re really not in a good position to handle it. How are we here?

Holeman: “We meet in late fall and we go through kind of the winter prep checklist. Have you insulated, have you checked your components that are exposed to the weather? Most of our generations are closed and not open-walled so that helps us. We check on the transmission equipment. Are we prepared in that respect and then we look at where the load could be and we do a super Peak analysis. We call it that we go to 110 percent of our historical peak, and test the system with our models and our algorithms.”

OYST: Here in the Carolinas is peak energy time in the summer, or is it in the winter?

Holeman: “So that’s a great question. So one would think if you just looked at kind of where we are geographically in the summer, but really for the last 7 to 8 years we’ve been a winter peaking company in the Carolinas.”

OYST: Let me ask you this South Carolina Governor Henry McMaster last week said he wants a review done in South Carolina to make sure something like this couldn’t happen there. Are you doing a similar kind of just audit right now to make sure you’re in good shape?

Holeman: “We do that kind of check all the time but we will look at the events in Texas from a lesson, learn perspective. “We will study hard, the lessons learned coming out of these last two weeks in Texas and apply those to the Carolinas in all of our years.”

OYST: When’s the last time we’ve had to do any kind of rolling blackouts here?

Holeman: “So in the Carolinas we have never done rolling blackouts. Every utility has a plan to do it if we have to, but we have not had to do that in my career of 35 years.”

OYST: Well, let’s keep that winning streak going OK. How’s that sound?

Holeman: “Yes, Sir, that I’m right there with you.

Duke says what works in its favor. They have more options to import energy when needed and can call on a mix fuels when necessary.”

If you have a Good Question, send it to us. We’ll try to get you an answer.

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