NPPD: Rolling outages may resume Tuesday evening and into the coming days

(Undated) -- Arctic cold continues it's grip on the Midwest on Tuesday, causing more rolling power outages in the Omaha metro.

Nebraska Public Power District President and CEO Tom Kent gave an update Tuesday morning on the status of the electricity grid and rolling power outages

Kent explained how the strain on the Southwest Power Pool, of which NPPD and OPPD are a part of, was affecting power users in 14 states, including Nebraska. “One thing that’s unique about the electrical system is that everything is balanced on a real-time basis. We don’t have a way to store large amounts of energy,” he said. Instead, he said people in control centers work “every day, every hour” to balance consumption.

While many outages were implemented and restored Tuesday morning, “we are not out of the woods,” Kent said. More outages and interruptions could happen Tuesday evening, or even the next couple of days, depending on usage loads he explained.

As of late Tuesday afternoon, SPP had dropped down to energy emergency alert level one, meaning electricity reserves were at a more maintainable level. Although the emergency level was dropped, utility companies are still asking customers to continue using electricity conserving measures.

NPPD implemented four times the interruptions Tuesday morning as compared to Monday, Kent said. The power load comparison was 40 megawatts on Monday to 178 megawatts on Tuesday, he said. The advantage of being part of a multi-state grid, he said, is that the power companies can help each other out “and keep the lights on” when specific grids are taxed. It also provides lower cost and less risk for everyone, he said.

In determining what areas to temporarily shut down, Kent said that NPPD looks at the system across the state to see how their breakers are serving certain communities and understand the power loads on those breakers. Kent said engineers manage the system as effectively as possible, account for emergencies and use that information to manage the list of what breakers would go dark. “It’s a pretty complicated process to identify loads that aren’t critical, to identify the best way to mg the system and acct for other risks that could happen, and to spread it around in a way that makes sense and minimized the impact to any one area as best we can,” the NPPD CEO said.

Kent said he couldn’t recall any time that rolling outages were implemented during the winter due to high power demands, but that those sorts of blackouts were put into effect in July 2012 when the state was in a severe drought, and irrigation demand was high, particularly in the central and northern central parts of Nebraska.

(Photo by Nebraska Public Power District)

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