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Lubbock Power & Light further weatherizes infrastructure as Public Utility Commission adopts mandate

Published: Nov. 1, 2021 at 6:46 PM CDT
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LUBBOCK, Texas (KCBD) - Electric utilities in Texas are facing a December 1 deadline to comply with “winter weather readiness recommendations” after the Public Utility Commission adopted new rules in October to require weatherizing of power infrastructure.

“It really expressly says that all of the different power plants across the state and all of the facilities that support those power plants must do weatherization of their plant,” Lubbock Power & Light spokesperson Matt Rose said. “When we look at our plants here in Lubbock and our facilities, one of the nice things is that many of the rules, many of the things that they’ve said that the industry must do, we’re already doing and have been doing for some time.”

The required weatherization follows the major winter storm in February of 2021 and is based on recommendations made following a winter weather event in 2011. The Texas Legislature passed Senate Bill 3 in one of the previous sessions in hopes of preventing a repeat of what Texans suffered when many lost power for an extended period of time.

“The good news is that many of the things that we’ve been doing the last few years, just to maintain reliability here at home, are things that are now being prescribed to other utilities,” Rose said. “We really don’t have to play catch up as much as going through and making sure that what we’ve been doing previously, that we’re continuing to do it. It involves insulating our power plants and it involves making sure that our substations perform, even if you drop below zero for an extended period of time.”

Rose said with standardized weatherization across the state there will be improved reliability, no matter what grid a customer is on. Despite LP&L’s infrastructure readiness in February, the utility was still forced to implement some outages.

“The only outages that we had to perform really, on our system, were rotating outages that were mandated by the Southwest Power Pool, similar to what you saw on ERCOT, although not as large or extended as on the ERCOT side,” Rose said. “For a couple of days, we had to rotate outages because the regional power grid asked or mandated that we do, but we didn’t see our system go down like you saw in other parts of the state. I think that’s a testament to the work that’s been done. I think it’s why it’s important that this legislation was passed and the other utilities do the same.”

LP&L crews continue to insulate and train for the upcoming winter weather. At its Massengale Power Plant, new insulated buildings are protecting water pumps.

“What you would have seen right here in this place last year was big, thick tarps and heating blankets and heaters underneath them,” Production Superintendent Michael Winegeart told KCBD during a tour of the plant. “Every year, we try to do a little more as we have the budget to do it. It’s not uncommon for us to see a single digit [temperature] or two every season. So, it’s just that continual work that we have to try to continue to get better every year to be prepared.”

Crews have gone as far as taking extra materials from other projects to build wind breaks on the north side of the plant to prevent cold air from blowing directly on the infrastructure.

Winegeart said this timeframe requires fall inspections.

“This is typical for us,” Windegeart said. “It’s planned maintenance so we’re just taking advantage of this opportunity before it starts getting too cold.”

To read more about the new PUC rules, click here.

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