Austin Energy biomass power plant remained offline during outages

The Austin Energy biomass power plant remained offline during an outage

Before the winter storm hit Austin and reduced the electricity supply to thousands, Austin Energy’s biomass power plant in East Texas was already offline.

Long before the winter storm hit Austin and supplied electricity to thousands of customers, Austin Energy’s multi-million dollar biomass power plant in East Texas was already offline.

Why it was never turned on was addressed during the power crisis hearings at the Texas Capitol on Friday. Austin Energy general manager Jacqueline Sargent testified why the website was not in the game.

“When we took ownership of this facility, we considered how we could continue to minimize the cost of owning this facility to our customers,” said Sargent.

The Austin Energy biomass power plant remained offline during an outage

Before the winter storm hit Austin and reduced the electricity supply to thousands, Austin Energy’s biomass power plant in East Texas was already offline.

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The Nacogdoches site was purchased by Austin Energy in 2019. The purchase eliminated guaranteed payments that the utility had already made in a previous deal. State Senator Robert Nichols, who represents the district in which the plant is located, asked how the change of ownership had changed its status.

“That facility was ready to come up when needed, and after you bought it, did you just mothball it, shut it down? Or did you keep it operational? If so, was it cranked for you?” Asked State Senator Nichols (R-Jacksonville) .

RELATED: Texas House, Senate holds hearings on last week’s winter storm

Texas House, Senate, holds hearings on last week’s winter storm

The committees in both houses of the Texas Legislature discussed what went wrong with the state’s energy infrastructure during last week’s winter storm.

The question was relevant to the crisis. Nichols said the previous owner, Southern Power, kept the site up year-round.

“So we put it in mothball status. When we were looking around in preparation for this event, we looked to see if we could put this plant back online, if we could make it available, if we had it here can also to support the market. ” Because of the challenges we faced in getting this system online, sourcing fuel on site, and getting it online and operational, we were unable to do so within the timeframe to meet this event, “explained Sargent.

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Sargent went on to say that the plan for the biomass plant is only intended to help meet summer electricity needs. “Wood chips don’t burn when they’re wet,” Sargent said.

Sargent was also asked why Austin Energy couldn’t manage the original rollout job, which resulted in some areas being kept in the dark while others never lost power. “We had to reduce so much load so quickly that we got to a point where we had no one to undress someone and put those people back on,” said Sargent.

Texan lawmakers are holding hearings on last week’s winter storm

The committees in both houses of the Texas Legislature discussed what went wrong with the state’s energy infrastructure during last week’s winter storm.

One factor that contributed to the long outages was power lines cut by fallen branches. Sargent testified that the problem, along with the blackout, created repair blind spots.

“When the damage occurred, these circuits were out of service, which means there was no current flowing through them. So there were no protections in place to tell that there was a problem on this line and we couldn’t specifically identify it.” where we had problems until we could get them back up and running, “said Sargent.

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When the power lines were switched on, several transformers were blown and the fuses blown. Sargent admitted the utility is lagging behind on its pruning program, but denied that it is micro-managed by Austin City Council’s environmental protection guidelines.

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