Rolling blackouts in Nebraska a first for NPPD
Rolling blackouts in Nebraska came to an end on Wednesday, Feb. 17, according to Mark Becker, media supervisor for the Nebraska Public Power District. While this is not news to those in the state who were experiencing power outages during times of extremely cold temperatures, Becker said the rolling blackouts ensured Nebraska wouldn’t experience long-term outages.
NPPD is a member of the Southwest Power Pool that includes 14 states from the Canadian border to include Montana, North Dakota, South Dakota, Nebraska, Kansas, Oklahoma, north Texas, and portions of Colorado and Missouri. Rolling blackouts were put into effect by every power company within the Southwest Power Pool.
The Southwest Power Pool doesn’t include wind power in their generation capacity as he said it is intermittent and less reliable than nuclear, coal, and natural gas plants. If the wind turbines are all generating at 100 percent capacity, he said they produce 480 mega-watts, though typically they run at 30 to 40 percent capacity. On Tuesday at the height of the cold weather and electricity demand, the wind plants were generating only 14 mega-watts.
The current firm load, the electric generation necessary to serve NPPD customers in the state is 1,703 mega-watts. On Tuesday, he said the firm load reached 2,060. Currently, the district is generating 2,550 mega-watts. The mega-watts generated above and beyond the firm load can then be sold to other entities within the Southwest Power Pool and the revenue then used to invest in infrastructure, repairs, trucks, poles, wire, and other items to maintain the lowest rates possible.
Becker said the NPPD was formed during World War II to ensure there was adequate amounts of electricity to make aluminum to build airplanes. In the years since then, it hasn’t had to request rolling blackouts.
“We understand who our customers are — they’re agriculture, cattle producers,” he said. “We need to make sure they’re irrigating so they can grow the crops to feed the animals, and the people raising cattle need electricity for the things they’re doing and we’re very cognizant of that. We’re not Omaha, we’re not Denver. Our customers are mostly rural and we’re going to do what we can to keep their lights on.”
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This the first in a six-part series of articles covering basic water law in the United States, predominately in the western part of the country, and how it affects this finite resource.