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Texas power plants prepared for winter freeze, NRG says

The W.A. Parish plant has a historical past of outages, each climate and non-weather associated.

FORT BEND COUNTY, Texas — Daryl Miller’s first week on the job as common supervisor of NRG’s flagship power plant was practically two years in the past — proper when a historic winter storm plunged tens of millions of Texans into the darkish.

So much has occurred since then.

“We’ve taken our most critical circuits and taken them into modern times,” Miller stated.

The W.A. Parish power plant in Fort Bend County is a workhouse, able to producing 3.8 gigawatts of power, or practically 5% of all electrical energy feeding the whole ERCOT grid. Miller stated NRG has spent tens of millions on weatherization enhancements over the previous two years. Preparations for this week’s arctic blast kicked into full gear about 10 days in the past.

“Started going over everything, double checking it, checking it twice,” Miller stated. “I feel we’re in actually fine condition.”

Since the historic winter storm, NRG has put in new insulation and up to date heat-tracing of essential elements to forestall them from freezing. Unlike up to now when crews must do handbook checks of that gear, every little thing is now totally automated.

“I can be sitting at home at two in the morning on Christmas and if I want to make sure the heat trace panels are on, I can check the heat trace panels,” he stated.

Miller gained’t be at residence, however relatively on the plant on Christmas, seemingly working a 15-hour day.

Not the entire winterization upgrades are high-tech. However, you will see loads of plywood windbreaks and transportable heaters across the facility, in addition to pipes wrapped such as you would do at residence.

“If you get a 30 to 40 mile an hour wind… I mean this isn’t going anywhere, so we know this is going to be protected,” Miller stated of one of many plywood boundaries.

The veteran power plant supervisor is a local of the Midwest and is aware of too nicely the challenges Mother Nature can deliver.

“If things start to freeze, bad things will follow,” he stated.

In a March 2021 letter to state legislators, power grid operator ERCOT recognized all of the power plants within the state that skilled an outage through the historic February winter storm. All 5 of the gas-fired producing models and half of the 4 coal-fired models on the W.A. Parish plant produced restricted power through the storm, in line with the letter.

“What it did is, it gave us a lot of lessons learned, we made a lot of improvements and we have that list,” Miller stated. “We talk about it, we document it and we use that to improve for the next year.”

The plant has additionally skilled its share of non-weather-related points, together with a hearth in May at one in all its coal-fired power-generating models. That unit, which may produce about 600 megawatts of power, continues to be out of service in line with Miller. Additionally, a number of different fuel and coal models went offline up to now month as a result of a wide range of issues together with tube leaks, feedwater issues, and management system points, in line with ERCOT information.

READ: Fire at WA Parish Power Generating Station in Fort Bend County

A giant problem dealing with many power firms in Texas is the age of their fleet.

Parts of the W.A. Parish facility have been constructed when Dwight D. Eisenhower was president.

Miller stated that’s like retaining a 60-year-old Chevy roadworthy—it takes loads of time, upkeep, and energy to maintain it operating.

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