HOUSTON — Imagine driving a 30- or 40-year-old car, every day for hours a day in the height of the Texas summer heat.
That's akin to what ERCOT is facing with its thermal fleet - coal, gas and nuclear power plants - which are the backbone of the ERCOT grid.
Records show about 30 gigawatts, which is enough to power about 6 million homes, come from thermal plants that are at least 30-years-old.
A large chunk of that, about 4.4 million homes worth of power, is generated by thermal plants 40-years-old or older.
"When you rely on plants that are so many decades old, they can go down unexpectedly, and they need a whole lot of time for maintenance," said Rice University Engineering Professor Daniel Cohan. "We're shrinking their maintenance season when we have these springtime heat waves."
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Last Monday, a fire at an energy plant in Fort bend county knocked out a coal unit and a half dozen thermal units tripped offline on Friday, sparking an energy conservation request.
Cohan said the aging thermal fleet is like a roll of the dice. He questions whether ERCOT is being too optimistic about the level of risk we face heading into summer.