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Virginia Power Outage: Grid Outage Explained

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Heavy winter storms left 390,000 Virginians without power this week. Dominion Power has since restored services to more than 250,000 customers. Extreme winter storms caused power outages and interruptions due to damaged infrastructure and equipment. For the power industry, these events impact wholesale power pricing, electricity demand and grid operations, in addition to the end consumer interruption.

Winter storms are common, so why has recent storm damage been extreme?

Extreme weather events cause damage to power grid infrastructure, but this year’s winter storms are particularly strong due to La Nina. The cold-water phenomenon in the tropical Pacific has caused an energized jet stream to bring damaging winter storms to the northern U.S., but warmer and more tranquil weather to the southern U.S. In addition, heavy rainfall in fall 2021 has softened soils, leaving tree root structures vulnerable. When laden with heavy snow, trees are more susceptible to falling and damaging power lines.

How do extreme weather events affect wind and solar generation?

There is a silver lining. This stormy weather is a plus for wind power generation if there is no damage to turbines. In October, Enverus forecasted above average wind generation activity for December 2021. In the early days of 2022, Enverus confirms this forecast.

More stormy weather expected from this La Nina weather

Enverus is concerned there could be additional power outages tonight and tomorrow in the same areas of Virginia as another heavy wet snow event enters the region.

“As the Virginia area recovers from the crippling snowstorm that knocked out power and made travel almost impossible, another heavy, wet snowstorm is expected Thursday night and Friday morning. There is a risk that additional power outages could occur with this storm system as well.”

Rob Allerman, Enverus

Enverus provides real-time power generation data and constraint analytics. Enverus Daily Reports and 90-Day Forecasts provide load and wind outlooks based on climate, industry and market fundamentals. Learn more at: https://www.enverus.com/solutions/energy-analytics/power-and-renewables/90-day-reports/

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Rob Allerman is Senior Director of Power Analytics at Enverus. Before joining Enverus, Rob was Head of North America Power Analytics at EDF Power Trading in Houston, Texas, and spent many years as a power analyst at Deutsche Bank. Rob also worked in the western U.S. for nearly 10 years at Power Utilities and started his career as a Hydrologist for the Federal Government.