Around 500 Entergy Arkansas customers in the Providence area experienced a power outage Monday “that lasted much of the day,” while rolling blackouts in the state Tuesday affected a little more than 4,300 customers in White County, according to Entergy spokesman Flave Carpenter.
Carpenter said as of Wednesday afternoon that he didn’t know if the rolling blackouts would also be necessary that night as snow continued to fall from the winter storm that started Sunday night and blanketed several states. He specifically mentioned a circuit in the Griffithville area when discussing Tuesday’s blackout, in which “we had a little over 60,000 customers that we took out between 7 and 9 p.m. statewide.
“They just identified circuits within the state,” Carpenter said. “They take them out for about 30 minutes. You take them out for 30 and turn them back on and what that does is, it just relieves the total load and reduces the potential for damage to the system.”
He said the outage Monday was “on a circuit up toward Providence from the northeast side of Bald Knob.”
“We were just having some problems with the load on that circuit. It kept overloading the circuit so it took us most of the day to get everything closed back in on it,” he said. ... Outside of that, we haven’t had a whole lot other than just a few spotty outages.”
Carpenter explained that the rolling blackouts were needed because “what happens is in this case, because of the extreme cold weather, you’ve got so much load on the grid, so much more than normal. It would kind of be like if we were in 105-degree temperatures and everybody is running their air conditioners at the same time. It would be similar to that, so you have to get into a protective mode to keep from damaging devices.”
“What happens is, when you have that much load on the lines, the lines can overheat and actually melt and break. So you can have damage to lines to transformers to fuses to all kinds of equipment,” he said. “You have to get into a protective mode so what you do, in this case, we are directed by our regional transmission authority, which is the Mid Independent Continent System Operator. MISO handles all the generation and transmission for a 17-state area, essentially from Mexico to Canada. What they do is they monitor the generation of all those areas so essentially it’s the central funnel of the United States.”
He said because what is happening is far beyond normal, it is making energy conservation a must.
“We have never seen temperatures like this on the Gulf Coast [record-breaking lows in the 20s]. You saw the snow that piled up in Houston, along the coast to New Orleans. That’s stuff that hadn’t been seen in over 100 years,” Carpenter said. “Certainly, a hundred years ago we didn’t have the grid and the electricity need obviously, but now with everyone relying on it, it has just become so heavily focused on the needs that people have to understand that even by conserving, which we have asked customers to do through Thursday night, even with conserving you still have so much load on the grid that there is still some potential to damage it. So what happens is, is that MISO from the 10,000-foot view looks at where all the load is and where the transfers are and what they try to do is they try to relieve areas of greatest needs, so what they do is just take circuits off a little at a time.”
Carpenter said because “we are in a conservation period through Thursday ... everything is on the table [concerning more rolling blackouts being necessary] because that’s how the load words. MISO is the one that indicates it will start and then we have a list to take circuits down.”
He said ways customers can help conserve energy is first, “turn your thermostat to 68 degrees and just try to maintain that. Myself, I have a programable thermostat in my house so I have it at 68 during the day and then at night, it goes to 62 to reduce it even further. You make sure you have some energy-efficient fans that can circulate air within your house. Make sure your ceiling fans are turned the proper way, clockwise in the wintertime so it doesn’t blow cold air on you. It circulates the warm air up and around. Don’t use your heavy appliances during the day, washer, dryer. Keep your refrigerator closed. Try to stay away from the oven and that kind of stuff. Make sure you keep your doors closed as much as possible. A lot of in and out causes the air in your house to fluctuate. So just watch that.”
Another tip from Carpenter is that if the sun is out during the day, open the blinds up and let the sun in to help assist in heating the house, and then at night, close the blinds and cover the windows with drapes to prevent any heat loss during the evening.
The last time Carpenter said he remembers rolling blackouts having to be used is “maybe some 20-some odd years ago. We had some issues where we did this with some large industrial customers, but I have never seen it across customer classes like this.”
After the cold, ice and snow make their way out of the state, he said things should get back to normal but as a rule, customers can continue to help by keeping thermostats at 68 during the day. If a customer has the ability to run it at 62, Carpenter said “that really saves you money. Your bill, for every degree you go over 68 degrees, your bill could increase by as much as 3 percent per degree so just try to keep your thermostat set at 68 during the wintertime.”
Another tip he gave was not to use heavy appliances between 7 and 10 in the morning and between 4 and 7 at night. “Just try to stay away from those times for heavy use. People get home for work or they get ready for work and that is when all the usage occurs so try to keep it as low during those periods as possible.”
If customers do have an outage, Carpenter said, they should call it in at 800-968-8243. If there is damage from an outage, that should be reported too. He said that would include downed lines, a blown transformer fuse, a burning transformer or anything on fire. “Anything that you see is helpful so that when the phone center gets that information they can add that to the ticket as it is dispatched.”