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‘Rolling blackouts’ surprise some west central Nebraska communities  

Only one of NPPD’s directly owned eight wind farms was operating Monday afternoon, Becker said. But that’s “probably because there wasn’t enough fuel: There was no wind.”

Credit:  Todd von Kampen | The North Platte Telegraph | Feb 15, 2021 | nptelegraph.com ~~

Some west central Nebraska residents were surprised Monday to be included in “rolling blackouts” caused by high power use by frozen customers from Canada to Texas.

North Platte seems more likely to escape that type of outage – though city officials are warning Municipal Light & Water users to conserve power use all the same while the Plains-wide frigid spell persists.

Some Dawson Public Power District customers in the Elm Creek area were affected by an outage that started about noon Monday, said Mark Becker, spokesman for Nebraska Public Power District.

The 17-state Southwest Power Pool, whose members include NPPD, Dawson and other Nebraska utilities, declared an emergency because Plains customers were using more power than the combined utilities were producing and had tapped as much as they could of available reserves.

“They went for 30 minutes, and then we stopped,” Becker said of the blackout affecting Dawson Public Power, which buys its wholesale power from NPPD.

But “this weather front is still out there. It’s not going away.”

NPPD, Dawson and other utilities are urging Nebraskans to avoid using large appliances, unplug unneeded lights and appliances and turn down thermostats to 68 degrees and lower at night.

Even with those measures, Becker said, more blackouts “may happen and the power may be out” from time to time “over the next two to three days.”

Dawson Public Power officials posted news of the Elm Creek-area outage on its Facebook page early Monday afternoon.

The post stated the rolling blackouts were imposed in efforts to keep the power grids up and running in the extreme cold.

Dawson doesn’t receive advance warning of when the outages will occur, utility officials said in the Facebook post.

Layne Groseth, North Platte’s public works director and manager of Municipal Light & Water, said the city’s NPPD representative has said “there is only a very slim possibility” North Platte will be subject to the power pool’s rolling blackouts.

“The majority of our power comes from the hydro plant” on the NPPD Canal between Lake Maloney and the South Platte River, Groseth said Monday afternoon.

“So we are sitting pretty good. If we would happen to have one imposed on us, it shouldn’t last very long.”

While NPPD supplies the city’s power, North Platte has owned and operated its own electric distribution system since acquiring it on Nov. 1, 1940, from Northwestern Public Service Co. (today’s NorthWestern Energy).

The deal was facilitated by NPPD predecessor Consumers Public Power District, which itself inherited the 1930s Sutherland Project that runs North Platte River water through canals to Sutherland Reservoir and Lake Maloney.

Southwest Power Pool, which has its roots in the 1940s, has never before had “to call for controlled interruptions of service,” Lanny Nickell, executive vice president and chief operating officer, told the Omaha World-Herald.

“It’s a last resort that we understand puts a burden on our member utilities and the customers they serve, but it’s a step we’re consciously taking to prevent circumstances from getting worse.”

Becker said NPPD’s generation plants, including Gerald Gentleman Station near Sutherland, “are really running very well” in coping with the persistent polar vortex that set daily low-temperature records across Nebraska Monday morning.

But as power demand kept growing, NPPD officials activated its Canaday Power Station steam plant near Lexington for the first time since 2012.

“We don’t do that very much,” Becker said.

North Platte hasn’t completely avoided power outages since temperatures dropped below freezing to stay on Feb. 5.

Groseth said ML&W has had “some small interruptions around town in the last 10 days due to weather and ice issues.”

Its crews “have worked quickly and restored power in a short amount of time,” he said.

Becker, the NPPD spokesman, also addressed reports from Texas utilities that wind turbines there have been iced over by freezing rain and plunging temperatures, taking half that state’s wind power generation offline.

He said more wind generation at this time “would help the system,” including in Nebraska – whose wind farms currently face a different problem.

Only one of NPPD’s directly owned eight wind farms was operating Monday afternoon, Becker said. But that’s “probably because there wasn’t enough fuel: There was no wind.”

Telegraph reporter Tim Johnson and Omaha World-Herald reporter Aaron Sanderford contributed to this story.

Source:  Todd von Kampen | The North Platte Telegraph | Feb 15, 2021 | nptelegraph.com

This article is the work of the source indicated. Any opinions expressed in it are not necessarily those of National Wind Watch.

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