Tucson-area utilities plan ahead to power through heat - Tucson News Now

Tucson-area utilities plan ahead to power through the desert heat

The power companies are keeping an eye on usage, trying to avoid a power outage. The power companies are keeping an eye on usage, trying to avoid a power outage.
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TUCSON, AZ (Tucson News Now) -

At 108 degrees Monday, Tucson broke the record of 107 degrees for this date.

When it gets this hot Tucsonans need to look for ways to stay cool and hydrated, but we also look for ways to lower our energy use.

Quick tip from the electric utilities: Unplug your electronics.

When the mobile phone says it's charged, it actually is a good idea to unplug it, and save energy and money.

The power companies are keeping an eye on usage too, trying to stay ahead of the game so there isn't a power outage.

They know we need our air conditioners, so they're encouraging us to use other ways to keep our electric bills as low as possible and not put too much of a burden on the system.

There are things we could consider doing without when the air conditioner is running.

"Everybody's air conditioning units are running pretty non-stop. When you add a dishwasher or a washer and dryer on top of that, that can actually overload the system if you've got thousands of people doing it. So what we would advise is to use only what you need. Run your air conditioner, but set it at 78," says Trico Electric Cooperative spokesperson Romi Wittman.

She says ceiling fans are a good way to stay cool and they use very little electricity.

However, Wittman says we should turn off the fan when we leave the room.

She says the fan doesn't cool the room. It only helps make your skin feel cooler.

Besides the mobile phone, Wittman also recommends unplugging gaming systems and other electronics when we're not using them.

Even when they're turned off, they still are sucking up power.

That's why they're called vampire electronics.

Wittman say Trico plans ahead, and is always looking for areas that need extra power.

She says if one area is putting a strain on a power substation, Trico will reroute the load to substations that serve a smaller population.

A substation is the place that converts higher voltage to lower voltage so it can be delivered to our homes and businesses.

It's also the spot where things can go wrong, especially when a substation gets overloaded.

Tucson Electric Power spokesperson Joseph Barrios says the utility tries to head off problems by watching where overloads could happen and where equipment might need to be replaced.

You might remember the power outage on Memorial Day.

35,000 TEP customers lost power for about one hour.

We now know what caused it.

Barrios says a bird got into equipment at a substation.

He says there's no foolproof system.

Barrios says TEP works to keep all sorts of things from affecting the system, especially during the summer when heat causes heavy power usage.

Add a strong monsoon storm or perhaps wildlife getting into the system, and that can cause some issues.

"If that damages equipment, then that can cause issues for us in terms of what sort of demand is placed on the system. And then what sort of flexibility we have to move customers over to other circuits in the event of an outage. So, there are factors that can affect how quickly we can restore service," Barrios says.

Barrios says "Simply in terms of, can customers overload the equipment by demanding too much power?  Well, that's part of our planning process."

He says the utility looks at weather and historical power usage and determines how much power it's going to need.

Barrios says then TEP arranges to be able to provide more than what it expects to need.

To report a Tucson Electric Power outage or emergency, call 520-623-3451.

To report a Trico outage or emergency, call 520-744-2944 #2

TRICO toll free: 866-337-2052.

Copyright 2014 Tucson News Now. All rights reserved.

 

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