By BRENDA KOSSOWAN
Power providers will review Monday’s outages with hope that it’s nothing they’ll encounter again any time soon.
It’s strictly coincidence that six of the 35 different generators in Alberta failed on the same day that a new record for summertime usage was set, said Doug Simpson, director of marketing operations for the Alberta Electric System Operator.
Between 1 and 2 p.m. on Monday, power usage in Alberta peaked at 9,885 megawatts, breaking the summer record set last July 18 of 9,552 megawatts. Alberta’s all-time high for electrical demand was set on Jan. 15 of this year at 10,609 megawatts.
Monday’s peak came at the same time as a sudden drop in generating capacity, Simpson said from his office in Calgary on Tuesday.
“It’s not unusual to have an individual generating unit go off line for a forced outage, or maybe even a couple, but we ended up with six and that puts a significant dent in our supply,” he said.
Alberta’s generators, including windfarms and hydro plants, have a combined output of 14,000 megawatts.
Losing six generators at once brought the output to 1.5 to 2 per cent below demand, triggering a need to cut back on usage until operations could be restored at the failed plants.
Power providers across the province, including the City of Red Deer, were each asked to take a share of the hit, said Simpson.
Red Deer was put on alert at about 1:30 p.m. and started its program of rolling outages at 2:15 p.m. in sections of Deer Park and Rosedale, said Jim Jorgensen, electricity, light and power manager for the city.
The rolling outages continued through the city, section by section, until AESO called everything off at 5:15 p.m.
Jorgensen said on Tuesday afternoon that his department had not tallied the total number of homes and other facilities that were affected by the time it was all over.
He had hoped to limit outages at each site to 15 minutes, but it was determined that it would be more efficient to run them at 20 to 30 minutes.
While rolling outages are a normal activity in places like California, where the power supply frequently runs over capacity, it is an unusual situation in Alberta, said Jorgensen.
Monday’s events will be analyzed to determine what worked and where there were problems.
The outages should serve a reminder for individual consumers to assess their own situations and determine how vulnerable they would be during a power outage, said Jorgensen.
For example, people could consider a backup power supply for emergencies, including an uninterrupted power supply unit so their computers don’t crash if there is an outage, he said.
Larger facilities, including hospitals, have emergency generators and other backup systems to ensure that there are not problems if there is an interruption.
Jorgensen and Simpson are also asking people to consider cutting down on the amount of electricity they use during the peak period, which runs from 5 to 7 p.m.
AESO advises taking a variety of steps, including turning off unneccessary lights and appliances, keeping drapes closed during the hottest part of the day to reduce the load on air conditioning units and waiting until after 7 p.m. to run large appliances including washers and dryers.