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State council preps for electricity usage peaks

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Posted: Tuesday, August 3, 2010 12:00 pm | Updated: 9:11 am, Thu Aug 16, 2012.

By Mason W. Canales

Killeen Daily Herald

With temperatures in the triple digits, energy consumption is on the rise, but residents shouldn't worry about brownouts.

The Electric Reliability Council of Texas has anticipated the state's electricity usage will peak at about 64,000 megawatts this summer, but the council also forecasted in a 21.4 percent reserve margin for that power consumption, ERCOT's Communication Manager Dottie Roark said.

"We don't anticipate any problems with the bulk transmission grid," Roark said this week.

One megawatt can run about 500 homes during normal Texas temperatures, but during the summer it is about half of that, Roark said.

Every summer ERCOT reviews the electricity reserve margins on what they believe the peak will be for the electric system, and it tries to put about 12.5 percent of reserve power, Roark said. But this year, it forecasted 21.4 percent for the margin.

"Even if we get up to 64,000 megawatts, we would be able to handle it," Roark said.

Weather is the biggest factor on electricity demand, and the summer so for has seen low demand, Roark said.

As of noon Monday, the state's electric system was only looking at about 61,000 megawatts.

Brownouts are still possible for a more local system, Roark said.

Some areas could suffer from brownouts as the consumption of electricity grows beyond a local transformer or substation's capacity, Oncor Electric Delivery Service Area Manager John Toone said.

"This week is going to test our facility with the constant heat all day every day," Toone said. "It is going to stress them some ... but we have the planning department that is constantly predicting the loads on the grids."

The area hasn't seen any major brownouts because of the heat yet, but there have been some small outages caused by transformers blowing, Toone said.

Transformers can blow from a number of reasons ranging from birds to a group of neighbors changing to stronger air conditioners in older neighborhoods and not telling Oncor, Toone said. New air-conditioning units could drastically change the amount of power going to a transformer and cause a short.

One of reasons demand for electricity increases so much during the summer is because of constantly running air conditioners due to the heat, Toone said. This prevents them from cycling, leading to more units running simultaneously, adding demands on the power grid.

Traditionally, August is the month when Texas sets a record for power usage because of the heat, Roark said.

"It certainly doesn't seem like we will be hitting (64,000 megawatts) this week, but it could be this month..." Roark said. "We do have hot weather in August."

Contact Mason W. Canales at mcanales@kdhnews.com or (254) 501-7554. Follow him on Twitter at KDHheights.

Reduce your consumption

These are some suggestions from Oncor Electric Delivery Service Area Manager John Toone to reduce your consumption.

Set your thermostat at 78 degrees.

Keep your blinds and curtains closed when the sun is up.

Keep your air filter clean.

Have adequate weather stripping around doors and windows to keep outside air from getting in your home.

Run fans in occupied rooms.

If your insulation has settled in your ceiling or walls, replace it.

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