Municipals Generate Electricity in Grid Emergencies

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Municipals Generate Electricity in Grid Emergencies

February 19, 2021

With troubles on various electric grids, Minnesota municipal power plants have been generating this week.

Southern Minnesota Municipal Power Agency member units were called on by the Midcontinent Independent System Operator (MISO) to run during the cold snap. Units running include in Grand Marais, Litchfield, Preston, Saint Peter, Mora, New Prague, North Branch, Wells, Princeton, Blooming Prairie, Redwood Falls and Spring Valley. Rochester Public Utilities was among the other municipal utilities that also generated.

Central Minnesota Municipal Power Agency member units in Glencoe and Windom racked up significant hours of operation during the emergency, particularly on Feb. 17. Units in Kenyon and Granite Falls also generated.

These smaller municipal generators can ramp up to generate within minutes.  This provides essential grid balancing support, which is especially helpful as the power system incorporates ever increasing renewable sources. These generators allow power output to be quickly adjusted to respond to fluctuations in the power demand and market conditions.

Natural gas supply was tight and expensive, so that also became a factor in which electric generators were called on.

The City of Tyler substation was temporarily out of service the morning of Feb. 16, as part of rolling power outages called by Southwest Power Pool (SPP).

Moorhead electricity was cut to about half of the city for 30 minutes the early morning of Feb. 16. Approximately 9,800 customers were affected. The temperature was 8 degree below zero Fahrenheit, with a wind chill ranging to 40 degrees below zero.

The Moorhead Public Service 10-megawatt power plant ran extensively and helped reduce the impact to the overall SPP grid. Luverne, another Missouri River Energy Services member in Minnesota, also generated, from midnight Sunday, Feb. Feb. 14 through the mid-morning of Thursday, Feb. 18.

The municipal utilities can be proud of how the units have run and the great job the employees at our member utilities have done in running them under tough conditions at all hours. The municipal power plants again proved the value of dispatchable local generation in maintaining system reliability.

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