The Custer Public Power District is experiencing historic levels of demands for electricity.
The extreme pressure placed on the system during this irrigation systems due to the hot, dry weather is stressing transmission systems, the high voltage lines that move electricity from power plants to CPPDs substations. To reduce that stress, CPPD has placed controls on irrigation wells.
Late last week, Rick Nelson met with a group of NPPD customers to review their options, and decided to divide up its nine power districts into three groups for more effective control of transmission relief.
“We understand how dire the situation is for irrigators, so we have been doing everything possible to minimize the down time for them,” says Nelson. “July 18, we hit a breaking point. The stress on one transmission line was such that there was no choice but for NPPD to open the breaker (in layman’s terms, flip the off switch) on a major line. There’s only one choice here - if they don’t act instantly when the system gets to an emergency stage, one hiccup can cause voltage to sag and take out the entire system, possibly even the entire state.”
Nelson says the plan they have come up with still gives CPPD the ability to control 12 hours per day, but they only plan on controlling 10 hours and using the last two hours as emergency relief if needed. The revised schedule of load control will now be 9 a.m. to 9 p.m.
Each of the three groups will have a 10-hour control window along with the possibility of control for the last two hours, from 7-9 p.m. Naturally there are some overlaps, and to get those in the correct spot the control times had to be changed.
“There is a group of districts that will control from 10 p.m. to 10 a.m. Our group will control from 9 a.m. to 9 p.m. We were included in this group specifically to provide relief for the Broken Bow Crooked Creek 115 kV transmission line during the peak energy period,” Nelson explains.
CPPD began controlling irrigation wells last Saturday, and Nelson says some changes had to be made Saturday night to keep the system intact for Sunday. Those changes will remain the same.
The plan does include controlling for a 12-hour period on Sundays, but total control should be only 70 hours per week with the potential for more in case of transmission line emergencies.
Nelson assures irrigators that control groups will not change. The only difference will be that groups will be controlled from 9 a.m. to 9 p.m., with the possibility of ending two hours earlier if transmission line loading relief is not needed.
“You may be sure that we will be watching very carefully to make sure we’re doing the best we possibly can on behalf of our customers,” says Nelson. “Due to this drought, NPPD is at a peak we didn’t think we would see for another 10 years. We are up against the laws of physics, operating the system at its outer limits, until Mother Nature gives us a break. Hopefully, this last change will be enough to get us through this very abnormal situation.”
Nelson reminds everyone that they can do their part in conserving energy and relieving stress on transmission lines, allowing producers to be able to get water to their crops. We have all heard the energy saving tips, but they certainly bear repeating:
• Turn off the lights
• Raise the temperature on the air conditioner
• Avoid doing laundry and turning on the oven between 3 p.m. and 8 p.m.
• Turn down the water heater if possible
“Every kilowatt counts,” says Nelson. “We know it’s tough, and we are doing everything we can.”