Andlinger Center Speaks: the Texas freeze and widespread energy system failures

Written by
Molly Seltzer
Molly Seltzer, Andlinger Center for Energy and the Environment
March 4, 2021

Texas, and much of the Midwest and Southeast of the United States, reached record low temperatures in mid-February triggered by a long-lasting polar vortex. What has been deemed the “#TexasFreeze” began last weekend and caused energy-system-wide outages as demand for heating and power surged. Power plants and natural gas wells and the related transmission and pipeline networks, which are unaccustomed to extreme weather conditions and the spike in energy demand that accompanies them, failed, leaving much of the state living in homes without heat or electricity with interior temperatures in the 30s or 40s. Jesse Jenkins, assistant professor of mechanical and aerospace engineering and the Andlinger Center for Energy and the Environment, explains the confluence of factors contributing to the extreme failures and potential measures to prevent an emergency of this scale in the future.

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