The extreme weather event we experienced last week is all compliments of the polar vortex, a term that is now well-known after last week. The extreme cold affected nearly every state; in fact, most states experienced below-freezing temperatures at some point during the event. The frigid weather was a shock to the system for many, and Kansas has had its share of brutal winters. This event put tremendous stress on the regional electric grid. This stress forced the Southwest Power Pool (SPP), who had already exhausted all of its available reserve energy, to begin directing those under its balancing authority to implement controlled power interruptions to prevent uncontrolled outages. While the BPU is not a direct member of SPP, the utility was involved due to our agreement with Evergy.
Many communities in the region experienced rolling blackouts; however, McPherson was able to keep power on.
This extreme event proved once again how dedicated, flexible, and resilient BPU crews are. On February 9th, the BPU was curtailed on natural gas. Fortunately, BPU units are dual fired, meaning they can generate with either natural gas or diesel. From February 13th -February 19th, the BPU received oil 16+ hours a day, with one day being 24hr deliveries- Maintenance staff basically lived at the Plant. “All four of our units were called upon for continuous generation from the 13th through the 19th. To keep them running at their required loads, we received over 375 truckloads of diesel fuel, totaling over 3,000,000 gallons. We burned through more diesel fuel during this time than in the last 20 years combined (2,400,000 gallons)”, stated Josh Bedel, BPU Assistant GM
Being able to generate more energy than what it consumed was a reason McPherson was not targeted with a mandatory blackout. This event proved how important it is to make sure equipment and infrastructure are adequately maintained and weatherized to handle a multitude of extreme weather events.
“We would be remiss if we did not give credit to those outside of the organization whose role was critical in our ability to continue to provide power to the region”, stated Tim Maier, General Manager.
“We want to express gratitude to Mid Kansas Coop for supplying the oil, to Double H trucking out of Willowbrook, Kansas for delivering all the oil, and CHS for ensuring that the truck rack stayed open and available for power generation. Also, a special thank you to the customers who could shut down or conserve energy enough to show a considerable energy reduction. This action alone lowered our demand on the system by 15%”, Maier stated.