The 2019 polar vortex demonstrated that members have the right people and power plants ready for extreme weather.
On a normal day, having reliable electricity means you can charge your phone, watch TV, and cook dinner.
During extreme cold weather, however, reliable electricity means so much more. Electricity is essential for almost any home heating, whether through all-electric heating systems or for powering the components of a furnace.
The importance of electricity was on display a year ago when a polar vortex sent temperatures well below zero and stressed the electric system for several days.
Lake Region Electric Cooperative deployed line technicians, trucks, and equipment to fix any problems caused by the cold weather. At the same time, our wholesale electricity provider, Great River Energy, carefully operated and monitored the electric system to ensure energy continued to reach LREC and the 27 other cooperatives it serves.
Extreme Weather Brings New Focus
When winter weather turns dangerous, powerline crews suspend normal maintenance in order to closely monitor the grid and fix issues that arise due to cold temperatures, ice, and wind.
“When our system is stressed or damaged, our crews work around the clock to keep the grid operating for our member-consumers,” said Priti Patel, Great River Energy’s vice president and chief transmission officer.
Great River Energy works with the regional grid operator, known as the Midcontinent Independent System Operator or MISO, and neighboring utilities to prepare for possible scenarios. During events like the polar vortex, MISO can issue cold weather alerts, which direct utilities to prepare all power plants to be dispatched on short notice.
During Extreme Weather, You Need Options
Wind energy now represents a hefty portion of the energy on the Midwest electric grid. When temperatures dip below -20º Fahrenheit, however, wind turbines can shut down entirely to protect vital components.
That’s where Great River Energy’s “peaking” power plants come in. When demand for electricity is high (times of “peak” demand), these plants provide additional energy typically fueled by natural gas. During extreme cold, when natural gas is also needed to heat homes and schools, those same plants can operate dependably with fuel oil.
“The handful of coldest days of winter demonstrate the value of a diverse portfolio of generation resources,” said Great River Energy Vice President and Chief Power Supply Officer Jon Brekke. “It requires a variety of fuels and technologies to ensure our members are warm and comfortable in every season and in any weather.”
Local Reliability Updates
Construction on the Schuster Lake Substation near Perham is nearing completion. This project adds robust infrastructure and technological improvements, allowing for faster power restoration. The new 115/41.6 KV transmission substation will also reduce outages by adding an additional source of power to the area. “The Schuster Lake Substation adds reliability to the Lake Region Electric Cooperative service area by providing a redundant power source,” said Steve Lawler, Great River Energy project manager. “Updated technologies also mean that there will be less interruption of service—or those outages that cause your clock to start blinking 12:00.”