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Independence Power & Light, Evergy warn of possible rolling blackouts across area

By Mike Genet mike.genet@examiner.net

Local utilities began rolling blackouts at mid-day Monday because the extreme cold weather has driven up the demand for power.

Independence Power & Light joined other nearby power utilities to urge customers to curb power usage for a couple days due to potential energy shortages caused by the extreme low temperatures. 

IPL customers are asked to make some conservation measures through Wednesday, when temperatures are forecast to rise and demand lessen. Rolling blackouts, affecting a couple thousand customers at a time for 20 to 30 minutes, started about midday Monday, and the city says it is unknown how long the rolling outages will be needed.     

Evergy (formerly Kansas City Power & Light) and the Kansas City, Kansas, Board of Public Utilities have made similar requests, and Evergy announced midday Monday it also would be doing rolling blackouts lasting about 30 to 60 minutes. By the mid-afternoon Monday, the blackouts ceased for the day around the metro, and Evergy said about 60,000 customers experienced outages Monday. Both Evergy and IPL are part of the Southwest Power Pool, the wholesale power broker for grids across parts of 14 states in the central plains in the United States and requested the blackouts because its power resources were in danger of maxing out.

Jim Nail, IPL’s director, said the rolling blackouts are designed to avoid massive power failures that affect far more people far longer.

“When demand exceeds the generation available, it stresses the system, affecting voltage and frequency control,” Nail said. 

IPL has protections for its electric grid – designed to trip when either frequency or voltage in an area goes beyond the operating limits because of that stress, Nail explained. But the longer that imbalance continues, the greater the chance multiple areas will trip, and if portions of the system trip, some generating resources get isolated, and that compounds the frequency and voltage issues.

In the worst-case scenario, he said, that issue “cascades” across the system, leading to wide-scale blackouts.

“By selectively dropping a small portion of each utility's individual load,” Nail said, “we match demand to generation and protect everyone.”

More:

More:150M people under winter advisories as 'unprecedented' storm stretches across 25 states

Among the steps officials say power customers can take to help reduce electrical usage:

  • Turn thermostats a little cooler (65-68 degrees). Avoid the use of electric space heaters.
  • Close blinds and shades to reduce heat lost through windows.
  • Change or clean filters on furnaces.
  • Turn off unnecessary lights and appliances in your home.
  • When possible, use large appliances (clothes washers, dryers and dishwashers) between 10 p.m. and 5 a.m.
  • Reduce air leaks by sealing around doors and windows with weatherstripping or caulk and inserting foam gaskets on electrical switches and outlets.
  • Businesses should reduce the use of electric lighting and electricity-consuming equipment as much as possible.
  • Large consumers of electricity should consider shutting down or reducing non-essential processes.

IPL says there is potential for rolling blackouts throughout the Southwest Power Pool (Independence’s wholesale power broker) if demands continue at the current level and weather continues to hamper wind generation. 

Southwest Power Pool map

The Southwest Power Pool covers much of the central plains of the United States, though much of Texas, where hundreds of thousands have been without power due to outages or rolling blackouts, is under a different power cooperative.

The frigid weather led many schools to decide early Monday to cancel classes for Tuesday or switch to all virtual learning.