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How Does That Work?

Handling effects of heat on the electric system

July 13, 2022 | Jason Kuiper | how does that work, reliability
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Nebraskans tend to crank up the air conditioner to combat the heat and humidity of summers. The forecast for the next couple weeks shows daily highs in the mid- to upper 90s, with even higher heat indices. Such weather can also be tough on electric equipment, which is why OPPD takes added steps to help ensure reliable service when customers need it most.

Holding up

“Transformers can get overheated with the extra use,” said Ricky de Aragon , Senior Director of Production and Grid Operations. “The oil that insulates a transformer and cools it also gets overheated and can fail. The heat and humidity can cause breakdowns.”

OPPD takes additional steps to ensure the system works when it is needed most. 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.

Hot work

Some instances mean a crew must replace a pole on a hot summer day. For example, after a car collides with a utility pole.

When the service territory is experiencing a heat wave, OPPD holds over extra crews to cover calls into the evening hours. This includes “store room” employees who ensure replacement equipment is available, if needed.

“We  proactively plan so that we can provide a quicker response and get the power on faster, we don’t want our customers to suffer long in the heat,” de Aragon said.

Other steps

Some additional steps OPPD takes during extreme heat:

  • Reminding employees working outside to stay hydrated, and equipping trucks with extra water. OPPD also trains employees to watch for signs of heat exhaustion.
  • OPPD asks office employees to turn off any unnecessary lights or other devices using electricity to conserve 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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