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February 2, 2011

Tri-County customers experiencing rolling blackouts

None for Weatherford

WEATHERFORD — Weatherford is still in the clear as the Electric Reliability Council of Texas has no immediate plans to require rolling blackouts.

Weatherford Electric’s demand has reached 96 megawatts so far today, exceeding last winters peek of 93 megawatts. And with the temperature not expected to raise above the freezing point until Saturday demand is expected to continue to be high.

In consideration of this ERCOT, located in Austin, has issued a state-wide request for Texas residents to conserve electric as much as possible to avoid long, widespread power outage.

ONCOR began its rolling blackouts early this morning, predominantly in Dallas and Fort Worth. However, areas of Johnson County, just south of Parker County, are also reporting rolling black this morning. Joshua, Alvarado and Burleson had reported 15-45 minute power outages.

Tri-County Electric Cooperative customers can expect rolling blackouts today, possibly extending into Thursday and Friday.

“It’s either this, or risk that the entire system go dark,” David Climent, manager of member services for Tri-County, said.  “Until we can get the power generators back on line, this is what has to happen.”

ERCOT has instructed utilities to begin rotating outages to compensate for a generation shortage due to numerous plant trips that occurred because of the extreme weather. Tri-County serves about 90,000 homes across a 16-county region, including much of rural Parker County.

“We are participating in the statewide emergency called by ERCOT,” Climent said. “We are shutting down different areas for 15 minutes at a time, but it’s taking up to one and a half to two hours to bring those areas back up.”

Lake Weatherford resident Evlyn Broumley is a Tri-County customer and said her power went out today around 11:30 a.m. and was back up in half an hour, although her Internet stayed down.

“It’s a good tight house,” she said. “We stayed warms and we’ve layer up on our clothes. It was easy. It was out and back on pretty quick.”

Climent said the bitter cold temperatures are causing power plants to go offline, due mainly to the extended period of time the temperature has been below freezing.

“Its affecting the natural gas power plants the most,” he said. “Natural gas has some moisture in it, and the cold temperatures are freezing that moisture to the inside of the pipe. That reduces the amount of gas the transmission line can carry – makes the pipe smaller.

“Anywhere where transmission lines are above ground.”

Tri-County is asking customers to refrain from using any unnecessary energy during the next few days.

“Reduce your thermostat to 72 or 73 – 65 is better,” Climent said. “Its better to have some heat, than no heat.”

He also asked customers to turn off their heating units at the first sign of power returning, just for a few minutes, until the power levels off.

Should Weatherford be required to implement blackouts, notification will be sent out by the city. The outages could last 10 to 45 minutes per neighborhood, with critical customers such as hospitals and nursing homes not included in the power outage.

A small portion of Weatherford Electric customers have experience power outages due to blown fuses, according to a press release from the city. WE crews were dispatched and have restored the power to all customers.

“There is over 35 years of service between members of the utility crew working on outages, each member of the crew takes great pride in their job, especially their efficiency,” Assistant City Manager Sharon Hayes said. “It is an honor for these guys to serve the citizens of Weatherford.”

Joe Farley, Weatherford Electric operations manager said the icy conditions forced many area businesses to close down Tuesday and today, which lessened demand. Weatherford ISD canceled classes Tuesday and today, keeping the district’s buildings off peak demand. He said Jamak Fabrication in northwest Weatherford is the system’s single largest user, but had delayed its work hours until 10 a.m. today due to the weather, which has another factor that the system’s peak demand lower than last year.

With noon time temperatures at 12 degrees, and no relief in sight in terms of a warm-up, the blackouts will likely be in effect through the rest of today and Thursday. The forecast had originally called for temperatures to warm above freezing Friday afternoon, but has since been downgraded to a high of 31, with a chance of snow.

“If we got a little sunlight, that would help,” Climent said.

It has been below freezing in Weatherford for 32 straight hours, as of noon today.

Publisher Steve Boggs contributed to this report.

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