The Heat is On: Challenges Faced by Power Utilities in Extreme Temperatures
Sep 18, 2023

The Heat is On: Challenges Faced by Power Utilities in Extreme Temperatures

As the mercury rises, so do the challenges for power utilities. The recent Level One Emergency declared by PJM Interconnection, the biggest U.S. electric grid operator, amid scorching heat is a stark reminder of the strain that extreme temperatures can put on our power infrastructure. This situation brings to light several key issues that power utilities grapple with during periods of high heat, including line sag, blowouts from wind, damage to structures, and the need for extreme efficiency and minimal downtime during repairs.

Line Sag

One of the most common problems during high heat is line sag. Power lines, like most materials, expand when heated. This can cause the lines to sag and potentially come into contact with trees or the ground, leading to power outages. The risk of wildfires also increases if a sagging line sparks in a dry, hot environment. Utilities must constantly monitor line sag and trim vegetation around power lines to prevent such incidents.

Blowouts from Wind

High heat often comes hand in hand with high winds, which can cause blowouts in power equipment. Wind can cause lines to sway and touch each other, resulting in short circuits and power outages. It can also cause physical damage to power structures, leading to more extensive repairs and longer downtimes.

Damage to Structures

Extreme heat can cause significant damage to power structures. Transformers, in particular, are vulnerable to overheating. When the temperature rises, the cooling systems in transformers can fail, leading to a breakdown. This can result in power outages and costly repairs. Utilities must ensure that their cooling systems are robust and well-maintained to handle the heat.

Efficiency and Minimal Downtime

In the face of these challenges, power utilities must be extremely efficient and minimize downtime when doing repairs. Every minute that a power line is down during a heatwave can mean discomfort or even danger for customers. Utilities must have contingency plans in place and be ready to act quickly when problems arise. PJM Interconnection, for instance, manages and pays on-call generators to keep power systems running, ensuring that they have available resources to meet firm load and reserve commitments.

High heat presents a unique set of challenges for power utilities. As climate change continues to drive more frequent and intense heatwaves, these challenges are likely to become more pressing. It's crucial for utilities to invest in robust infrastructure, proactive maintenance, and efficient repair strategies to keep the power flowing, no matter how high the temperature rises.

EKN Engineering provides comprehensive solutions to tackle heat-related challenges in power utilities. EKNs offerings include real-time monitoring, predictive analytics, efficient work coordination, and data-driven decision-making tools. These solutions enable proactive maintenance, rapid response to issues, regulatory compliance, and infrastructure optimization during high heat conditions, ensuring reliable and efficient power supply.

EKN Engineering's comprehensive, data-driven solutions equip power utilities to effectively manage and overcome the challenges presented by high heat conditions.

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