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City Could Set Record for Power Use Thursday

July 29, 2008

By Pam Zubeck, The Gazette, Colorado Springs, Colo.

Jul. 29–With temperatures soaring into the 90s this week, air conditioners are placing a bigger demand on the city’s power supply.

Colorado Springs Utilities officials said today that the summer heat could translate to a record peak load on Thursday when highs will hit the mid to upper 90s.

The previous peak — 863 megawatts — came on Aug. 21 last year.

Last Thursday, usage surged to 849 megawatts, but afternoon clouds stifled usage from soaring to a new record, said Herman Green, Utilities supervisor of real-time trading.

So far this summer, the heat hasn’t prompted Utilities to ask participants in “Kilowatcher,” a program of commercial and industrial customers, to reduce electricity usage this summer.

Utilities doesn’t expect brownouts, because it has ample supply of 1,035 megawatts, which includes purchased power.

“Anything mechanical can go wrong,” Green said. “If everything in the region stays healthy and we don’t have multiple problems at the same time, we don’t foresee any brownouts through the Front Range.”

Drew Rankin, Utilities general manager of energy supply, said the city generates 920 megawatts with its coal, gas and small hydro facilities. It buys 1 megawatt of wind from Xcel and 110 to 120 megawatts of hydropower from the Western Area Power Administration.

The city has more than it’s expected peak, he said, because it also must have an 8 percent contingency to offset loss of a power unit.

“If all units are available and running well, we would not have to buy anything off the wholesale market,” he said. “In fact, we might even be a seller.”

Rankin said so far this year the city has made about $3 million selling power.

Green’s job is to be sure the city is using the cheapest power.

Depending on the market and time of year, hydropower from the northeast can be cheaper than Utilities coal-fired energy, he said. Other times, coal-fired power from elsewhere is cheaper to buy than to generate at the city’s natural gas-fired Front Range Power Plant.

“Before high load days we get intelligence on who’s going to be in what kind of shape to sell or buy,” Green said.

Green’s office also stays in touch with the city’s generating crews and may call a “no touch” day.

“That cancels discretionary maintenance,” he said. “They know we’re going to be depending on our units.”

Green said the forecast calls for a hot, dry August and early September, with temperatures 3 to 8 degrees warmer than normal.

“Yes, we’re looking at some high usage periods through middle of September,” he said.

Contact the writer: 636-0238 or pam.zubeck@gazette.com

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Copyright (c) 2008, The Gazette, Colorado Springs, Colo.

Distributed by McClatchy-Tribune Information Services.

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