Summer’s Extreme Heat Threatens Our Power Grids

Perhaps the scariest thing about the recent storms, power outages, and heat in Texas is that they occurred in May.

We haven’t even reached the official start of summer yet. A summer that’s expected to be one of the hottest on record. 

As of this writing, some 600,000 people in Texas are without power. Down slightly from 750,000 a few days ago. Especially in the Dallas area where deadly tornadoes and other intense storms have been most active.

Seven people died in Texas over Memorial Day weekend due to storms and flooding. Two weeks earlier, a tornado and high winds slammed the Houston area. Damaging transmission towers and downing power lines. Knocking out power and killing several people.

And Texas isn’t the only state with deadly summer weather… Excessive heat warnings are in effect for more than 17 million people in California, Nevada, Utah and Arizona for the coming week.

Even Hotter Than Last Year? 

Temperatures in Dallas and Houston are expected to be well into the 90s this week, with more storms and flooding possible. And in the West? Temperatures are expected to hit triple-digits. And again – summer doesn’t start for over two weeks.

The Earth just experienced its hottest April ever. Marking the 11th consecutive month of record heat. 

Last year was the hottest on record. Many scientists predict similar heat this year. Zeke Hausfather is a climate research scientist at Berkeley Earth. The company analyzes land temperature data. 

He estimates there is a 66% chance that 2024 will be the hottest year on record. And he’s 99% certain it will at least be the second hottest.

Heat Causes Health Problems

The El Niño weather pattern we’ve experienced over the past year is associated with warmer temperatures. 

It’s weakening. And will be replaced soon with La Niña. But the year after an El Niño year is usually extremely hot.

There are plenty of dangers associated with extreme heat. Including dehydration, heat exhaustion, and heat stroke. 

Air conditioners are highly effective at limiting these serious conditions. But when storms and high heat knock out power? AC units sit in silence.

Rolling Blackouts Are Coming 

Unfortunately, power transformers are not designed to operate at full capacity during heat waves.

That’s why we’ve seen rolling blackouts in a number of states. And why we will probably see more of them this summer and beyond.

Rolling blackouts are an effective way to keep the grid from shutting down completely. But they present big problems for people during extreme heat. 

During the Pacific Northwest’s 2021 heat wave, power was temporarily cut for tens of thousands of people in Spokane, Washington. In Spokane County alone, 19 people perished from the heat.

Power Plants, Transmission Lines, ACs in Trouble

Could Phoenix experience a power outage for an extended period of time during the summer? If so, it’s estimated that thousands would die.

Other cities would also experience significant heat-related deaths and illnesses due to a heat wave without power. Including Las Vegas, Austin, and New Orleans. As well as Memphis, Miami, and New York City.

Michael Webber is a professor of mechanical engineering at the University of Texas-Austin. He is also the author of Power Trip: The Story of Energy.

He said, “When it’s hotter outside, our power plants are less efficient. And the transmission lines are less efficient. And the air conditioners are less efficient.”

Worse Before It Gets Better 

Maybe hotter conditions and increasing storms are a temporary thing? Maybe we just have to wait it out?

Scientists say no. Things will get worse before they get better. According to a new report, large areas in Texas, California, Arizona, and Nevada are especially vulnerable. 

They can expect at least four months every year in which temperatures will be high enough to compromise power transformers.

What does that mean? It means blackouts caused by overheated electrical equipment could become more frequent over the next 25 years. 

Not “in” 25 years, but “over” the next 25 years. In other words, this serious problem exists now. And it will only get worse over the next two to three decades. 

We Need More Transformers 

There are already about 60 million transformers in America. But the only answer for keeping grids running during heat waves is building more. 

The more transformers there are, the less electricity must flow through each one. But they are very expensive to create. 

A study from the National Renewable Energy Laboratory revealed this. By 2025, the U.S. will need three times as many transformers as it has now to combat the heat. Assuming temperatures continue to rise.

Maybe we’ll figure out how to generate more electricity. But it still needs to travel to where it’s required. And that means more transformers.  

What About Your State?

So, will you experience hotter than normal temperatures this summer? The answer is probably yes. No matter where you live. But certain areas of the country are expected to be hotter than others.

According to the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration, some states have the highest chance (60-70%) of hotter than average temps this summer. Such as most of New Mexico and Utah. Plus parts of Colorado, Arizona, and Texas.

The entire Northeast has a 40-50% chance of hotter than normal temps. As do large stretches of Louisiana and Idaho. Plus Washington, and parts of Arizona.

Only one portion of the U.S. is expected to have cooler than average temperatures. That’s the southwest portion of Alaska. 

Sorry for the doom and gloom. Just trying to alert you to the realities. Fortunately, there is a way to stay cool when the heat is sweltering.

To your survival,

Robert Boyd

Managing Editor


Read More: Extreme Heat Preparedness Guide >>

Read More: 12 Unusual Ways to Stay Cool >>

Find Extreme Heat Summer Safety Essentials Here >>


  • Kathleen Crane - June 06, 2024

    If it’s a $3000.00 solar generator forget it mist if us fine have $300.00 to spare

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