How Extreme Weather Stresses The Grid

Europe experienced a week-long heatwave in mid-July. Just a week, scorching temperatures melted the Midwest and Deep South, eventually moving to the East Coast to smother states like New York and Massachusetts. But it wasn’t just tough on the people of those regions.

The sweltering heat is a massive strain on power grids, too. In winter, natural gas, heating oil, and other fuel sources supporting heating efforts and while the grid does see an increase in demand on frigid days, it’s often less pronounced than during summer months. That’s because when people need air conditioning, nearly everything draws on electricity. Bearing the brunt of the cooling needs of tens of millions of people, the grid sees massive, prolonged levels of demand that can last days or even weeks.

That demand can lead to outages, and when the lights go off and the air conditioning shuts d

own, those high temperatures can be dangerous. Cities across the Midwest offered public cooling spaces, water, even air-conditioned places to charge electronics to those whose homes had lost power.

It isn’t all load, either. The temperatures actually cause the grid to operate even less efficiently, with transmission lines physically swelling due to the heat and increased load. Studies show that extreme heat could cause a 1-5% decrease in efficiency over the next decade.

Tackling climate change and extreme weather patterns will take a lot of resources, innovation, and investment. There are lessons to be learned from states who’ve experienced similar heatwaves in the past, but energy grid experts are motivated to do more. See what other factors have caused energy companies to look to grid-scale energy storage solutions to make sure we can power the future.