Power outages this morning, lasting about an hour or less, affected thousands in the Bismarck area and many areas of North Dakota, including Minot, Williston and Dickinson.
Many of the outages were intentional — part of rolling blackouts by the Southwest Power Pool (SPP), a collection of states, including North Dakota, using and sharing a regional power grid.
Due to the winter storm and high power demands in Texas and other states, SPP is running controlled blackouts in various states in an effort to keep the power grid from overloading and failing.
Temporary power outages are expected to continue throughout the day around North Dakota.
North Dakotans were posting this morning on social media about power outages in their areas.
A preliminary survey of those posts as well as power utility website updates on outages indicates:
- For about an hour, numerous locations in the Bismarck area were without power this morning, but most appear to have been restored
- Areas in and around Tioga and Killdeer appear to still be having power issues, according to the Montana-Dakota Utilities’ outage website map.
- Some locations in the Dickinson and Baldwin areas are also apparently having some power issues
The reports are very fluid at this point.
Customers of Montana-Dakota Utilities are not affected by the intentional rolling blackouts.
In a news release, MDU said, “Montana-Dakota Utilities is a member of the MISO transmission grid and energy market. MISO does not expect to implement load reductions today, and Montana-Dakota Utilities does not expect any power interruptions today. The region’s other transmission/energy group, Southwest Power Pool, is curtailing load again today. Montana-Dakota Utilities does not receive energy from SPP and therefore is not impacted.”
Monday night, Governor Burgum posted a note indicating parts of North Dakota might experience power outages due to the winter storm in Texas.
“Southwest Power Pool declared an Energy Emergency Alert Level 3 and directed its member utilities to implement controlled interruptions of service to prevent further power outages,” he wrote. “SPP is urging consumers in its regional grid operating area, including North Dakota, to reduce their consumption of electricity at both home and work as SPP and its member companies work to restore the grid to full capacity. We thank North Dakotans for doing their part to conserve power.”
Capital Electric Cooperative posted on its Facebook page, “We know that this is an intentional outage to shed load on Western Area Power Administration’s transmission system. We are waiting for details on the duration. Thank you for your patience. We will update as soon as we know more.”
Load shedding is the deliberate shutdown of electric power in a part or parts of a power-distribution system, generally to prevent the failure of the entire system when the demand strains the capacity of the system.
The Western Area Power Administration (WAPA) is a power transmission provider that is part of the Southwest Power Pool.
Capital Electric Cooperative spokesman Wes Engbrecht said the rolling blackouts for its service area started around 7:30 this morning.
“They basically turned off power to five of our Capital Electric substations mostly on the west side of Bismarck, going north and all the way up to the Wilton area,” said Engbrecht. “There is a possibility of rolling power outages in other parts of our service area. We serve all the way up the McClusky Goodridge area all the way down to Moffit. We could see rolling outages throughout the day.”
Capital Electric serves about 18,500 customers. Engbrecht estimates roughly 4,000 customers could have been affected by the rolling blackouts this morning.
“Other electric utilities are experiencing the same thing. So, they are not going to shut off an entire system, just parts of the system of a time. So, we will see how the day goes,” he said.
Engbrecht says the situation is unprecedented in how power problems in Texas due to the winter storm are affecting North Dakota.
“Wind turbines were freezing up and they [SPP] basically lost the ability to create as much power as they needed down there,” he said. “So, it really is the massive cold across the country. It’s a very rare occurrence. I read yesterday Southwest Power Pool equated it to a 100-year flood. This is one of those perfect storm things.”
Customers of Otter Tail Power Company could also be affected in many parts of North Dakota, South Dakota, and Minnesota.
In a news release, Otter Tail Power Company said they encourage their customers to be prepared in case of an emergency, as their service area overlaps with the Southwest Power Pool (SPP).