This week’s cold weather may tax the state’s power systems more than any other day of the year, but Duke Energy, the state’s largest utility, says it is ready.
As temperatures drop and heaters chug harder, utilities will turn to an arsenal of advanced technology, and pleas for conservation, to ensure that lights stay lit.
“These high-demand situations are scenarios that we plan for year-round and practice for,” said Duke Energy spokesman Jeff Brooks.
First, Duke is asking consumers to cut off unnecessary lights, turn down thermostats, delay powered household chores and unplug technology chargers, especially when temperatures bottom out on Thursday and Friday mornings. Opening drapes to let the sun in can also heat homes and reduce power use.
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Some industrial customers also are slowing down activity in exchange for incentives.
On the utility’s side, new “smart” technology will be monitoring the power grid and shifting megawatts across the network as demand shifts. The “demand response” system allows the company to lower voltages on power lines without browning out the most-distant customers, as used to happen.
The company created the system in the last decade, partially in response to federal incentives under the stimulus package, which directed hundreds of billions of dollars to projects across the country during the recession.
“Some of this involves the installation of hundreds of thousands of pieces of equipment on the grid,” Brooks said.
The system is always in use, but its special abilities can squeeze hundreds of extra megawatts from the system, equivalent to an extra section at a gas power plant. However, it’s not optimal to do that all the time, Brooks said.
Duke also is delaying optional maintenance on power plants in order to keep maximum power flowing.
“We really put all of our fleet to work,” Brooks said.