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Handling the effects of heat on the electric system

July 24, 2023 | Jason Kuiper | how does that work, reliability
effects of heat on the electric system

Another round of scorching heat is coming to the OPPD service territory.

The National Weather Service (NWS) predicts temperatures will reach triple digits over the weekend. The NWS issued notice that a heat advisory could go into effect Saturday. When temperatures and heat indices reach the levels they expect, they want the public to take precautions if outside.

The NWS predicts heat indices of 100 to 105 degrees starting Saturday. Anyone out in those types of conditions should be aware of the dangers of heat exhaustion and heat stroke.

It is the type of weather that can be tough on electric equipment.

“Higher temperatures and the associated increase in electrical demand can stress our substation and distribution equipment,” said Chris Angland, director of Electric Grid Operations at OPPD. “Any equipment failures that we may experience can impact the critical service we provide at a time when it is most critical to our customer-owners.”

Knowing the heat can impact electric equipment is why OPPD takes added steps to help ensure reliable service when customers need it most.

“If you consider the complexity behind everything that needs to happen for our customer-owners to receive reliable electric service, it is truly astounding,” Anglad said. “The resiliency of the systems we’ve built really shines during these times. And when we do experience any operational issues, we are ready.

“The folks that support our grid from production to delivery are prepared to do everything they can to ensure our customers are taken care of when it matters the most.”

Holding up

The utility has a team that works to strategically place new electrical infrastructure in the right places. These locations are based on usage history and future projections for usage to ensure circuits don’t overload.

In order to prevent more strain than necessary on hot days, OPPD crews postpone regular maintenance work that involves shifting electric loads. This shifting can add strain in other areas of the system.

And when heat indices reach 95 degrees, OPPD holds at least one crew back along with the normal evening crew. That “heat crew” gives the utility two crews available along with the normal trouble shooters during stretches of extreme heat. More crews can be held over if the the previous night was busy. Extra crews can assist with outages or other work that could come up.

A storeroom employee stays and works during times when heat indices reach 95 degrees.

Some additional steps OPPD takes during extreme heat:

  • Reminding employees working outside to stay hydrated, and equipping trucks with extra water. The utility also trains employees to watch for signs of heat exhaustion.
  • Asking office employees to turn off any unnecessary lights or other devices using electricity. This conserves power during peak energy usage hours.

The Cool Smart air conditioning management program may take effect for customers who are part of the program. This program helps OPPD reduce load demand during peak usage times.

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About Jason Kuiper

Jason Kuiper joined OPPD as a communications specialist in 2015. He is a former staff writer and reporter at the Omaha World-Herald, where he covered a wide range of topics but spent the majority of his career covering crime. He is a graduate of the University of Nebraska at Omaha and has also appeared in several true crime documentary shows. In his free time he enjoys cooking, spending time with his wife and three children, and reading crime novels.

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