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Rolling Power Outage Emergency Lifted

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HURST (CBSDFW.COM/AP) – The agency that manages the state’s power grid lifted the emergency alert that threatened initiating rolling blackouts at Texas homes and businesses at about 6 p.m. Thursday.

The Electric Reliability Council of Texas said Thursday that some large industrial customers were being paid to shutoff power.

ERCOT urged residential customers to conserve energy and hopefully avert rolling afternoon outages as power demand peaks.

At about 6 p.m., the grid canceled the emergency and restored power to the large industrial customers without cutting power to residents.

Bell Helicopter, in Hurst, was one of the 50 energy companies across the state asked to cut power use immediately.

“We have the plan in place. We got the phone call,” said Bill Schroeder, a Bell Helicopter spokesman. “We put the message out and people put the plan into effect immediately.”

Peak demand reached 66,815 megawatts Thursday between 4 p.m. and 5 p.m., lower than Wednesday’s record demand. The state had set records for emergency use every day this week until Thursday.

Electricity reserves dipped below 1,750 megawatts by Thursday afternoon. By comparison, demand peaked Wednesday above 68,000 megawatts, but ERCOT managed to avoid taking the most severe power-saving measures.

But at Bell Helicopter, Schroeder said the company cut back on all non-essential systems. They determined that work could wait.

“We have been testing equipment with motors that’s 1,000 horsepower and what we do is back that off and test another day,” Schroeder said.

Other companies, like CitiGroup, had 10 minutes to turn on generators, providing a back-power source for buildings full of computers. The financial facility usually pulls as much power as 450 homes.

One megawatt can power about 200 air-conditioned homes in extreme heat.

Once CitiGroup was out of the loop, it reduced the chance power would be cut to homes.

Crista Wilson was dreading that possibility at her home in East Dallas. With a two–year-old daughter, losing power on a 100-degree day could be more than just an uncomfortable afternoon, she said.

“It’s the beginning of the month, so I’ve done a lot of grocery shopping,” she said. “Now with the blackouts, I don’t know what to do.”

Also, wind power generated 1,400 megawatts Thursday, as opposed to the 1,800 Tuesday. Typically, wind generates 800 megawatts, said Kent Saathoff, ERCOT vice president of system planning and operations.

“Electricity demand for Friday is expected to be lower than today, but we are still asking consumers and businesses to conserve through tomorrow due to the unusually high demand and the increased risk of generation outages during these type of conditions,” Saathoff said in a release.

ERCOT imported 1,033 megawatts from grids in other states and Mexico Thursday, Saathoff said.

“As stated before, we are very appreciative of the businesses and consumers who have been reducing their electricity consumption 3-7 p.m. this week,” Saathoff said.

(The Associated Press contributed to this report.) 

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