High power demand may call for sacrifice

Friday, July 20, 2007

It was surprising, and unusual for the last few years at least, that McCook's first day of 100+ degree temperatures arrived Wednesday, July 18, when the McCook Regional Airport recorded a high of 101.

While the humidiy has been high, we had a couple of days of respite Thursday and today, but temperatures are expected to be near triple digits again this weekend.

In the old days, we just had to suffer with the heat. Nowadays, however, most of us live a sheltered existence in the summer. It's unusual not to have air conditioning at home or in our car, and while many work outdoors or in hot factories, a lot of us spend the day in cooled air as well.

But comfort comes at a cost when it's unbearably hot outdoors.

Just ask NPPD, which reached a peak of 2,301 megawatts of electrical demand on Tuesday. A load like that puts a strain on the system, from the generation facilities through the substations all the way down to the powerlines entering our home.

NPPD and local utilities have programs that reward industrial customers and irrigators to voluntarily reduce their electrical demand during peak demand times like Tuesday.

"NPPD matches its generation to its ever-increasing electrical load," explained NPPD President and CEO Ron Asche. "personnel at our power plants, control center, and the line technicians who maintain and operate our transmission assets are credited for responding successfully in demanding situations and utilizing effective programs, like the curtailmment program, to keep NPPD's delivery of electricity reliable and at a reasonable cost to customers."

When customers start using more power, NPPD uses extra generation from higher-cost natural gas or oil-fired plants, in addition to generation supplied by its lower-cost coal, nuclear and hydro generating plants. Passers-by might notice a turbine "peaking unit" running on North Highway 83 in McCook on hot days like Tuesday.

But there are a few things we can do to help.

* Wash clothes, run the dishwasher or dryer, and take showers late in the evening.

* Turn the air conditioning thermostat up a few degrees or use a programmmable thermostat.

* Decrease the use of hot water and close window blinds to shade rooms from direct sunlight.

* Circulate the air in your home with a ceiling or portable fan.

Of course, older people or people with medical issues should not be allowed to suffer with the heat.

But for the rest of us, a little discomfort might be all it takes to make sure the power keeps flowing smoothly.

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