Hot weather, high energy use force NPPD to new record

July 5, 2012

Independence Day proved to be more than just hot. NPPD’s customers set an all-time energy usage peak of an estimated 3,036 megawatts (MW). The new all-time peak bettered a previous record of 2,851 megawatts reached the day before, July 3, 2012. Prior to this, NPPD’s last all-time peak was 2,671 megawatts set on July 30, 2006.

“NPPD utilized the diversity of all its power plants and resources, generating power with nearly every type of fuel available (nuclear, coal, wind, natural gas and water) to meet our customers’ needs,” said NPPD’s Energy Manager Ron Thompson. “We also purchased power from the energy market when necessary.”

Yet, such a great amount of electricity carried across Nebraska’s transmission system, along with the possibility of fluctuating voltages on the transmission lines, can tax system transformers, substations, and other equipment associated with power delivery.  Brief outages can occur if power lines become overloaded, and NPPD urges customers to conserve energy when possible.

Efficient Use of Energy

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Because high temperatures are expected through the rest of this week and weekend, customers are encouraged to conserve electricity, especially between 3 p.m. and 8 p.m. when energy use is at its highest. Some of the easiest ways to conserve energy are to:

  • Raise your thermostat to a higher setting and turn on fans.
  • Close drapes on windows that face the sun.
  • Grill meals outdoors or use your microwave instead of the stovetop or oven.
  • Delay dishwashing and laundry until after 8 p.m.
  • Unplug appliances and shut off lights that are not in use.
  • Do any baking early in the morning before it gets hot outside.
  • Shower early in the morning or later in the evening.

“Collectively, every little bit can help,” said Thompson. “Imagine if the nearly 1 million Nebraskans ultimately connected to NPPD’s electrical grid turned up their thermostats one or two degrees or ran their electrical appliances like washers, dryers, dishwashers, etc. after 8 p.m. or before 8 a.m., we would likely see reduced demand on the system as a whole.”

NPPD’s system operators manage much of Nebraska’s electric grid outside of the Omaha and Lincoln areas. NPPD works in close partnership with the public power utilities that purchase NPPD’s generation and deliver it to their customers. Together, the utilities monitor the electrical load needed by each utility and try to mitigate or adjust the load on the lines to handle the varying customer demands as efficiently and effectively as possible.

“We are constantly assessing what is driving our load,” said NPPD’s System Control Manager Ron Gunderson. “Irrigation demands in one area of the state, coupled with air conditioning loads in nearby communities, can put great demand on the system. However, good rainfall can reduce the need for irrigation and slightly reduced temperatures in another area of the state can decrease the demand from air conditions and, in turn, reduce load on the system overall.”

Yesterday, transmission lines in both the north central part of the state and around the area of Gothenburg were heavily loaded. NPPD saw a number of transformers and sub-transmission lines approaching their limits, but in most cases,  NPPD was able to work with its wholesale partners to move load to keep the loading within limits. There were a couple of outages related to sub-transmission lines exceeding their capability, which resulted in customer outages. Load was transferred to other sources to permit the customers service to be restored.

“Considering the extremely high loads that were experienced, the system performed remarkably well,” said Gunderson. “NPPD and its wholesale partners’ personnel did an excellent job of managing the transmission and distribution system during this difficult period.”