Rocky Mountain Power Customer and Community Manager Tim Solomon reported to the Jefferson County Board of Commissioners that the Dec. 3 and 4 outage, in negative 20 degree cold, was unexpected.
At the May 12 commissioners meeting Solomon said that the utility's contingency plans counted on backup power from wind generation to help keep the power on during scheduled maintenance to the Goshen Substation, south of Shelley. Unfortunately, as is normal in subzero temperatures in Idaho, there was no wind Dec. 3.
"We didn't have the backup from the wind to get it done," Solomon said. "We learned from that, obviously."
He said that the utility has a strict maintenance schedule to complete needed repairs and upgrades before irrigators double the state's energy load. Necessary repairs must be made in the winter.
After the power went down, the demand for energy caused a cascading effect of substation after substation switching off. Solomon compared it to a dam failing, and the excess water hitting all the dams downstream.
To turn the power back on, the utility contacted the Bonneville Power Administration who, in turn, ordered Idaho Falls Power and Fall River Electric to reduce power demand on the system or face a shut down. He said that the utility was concerned with its customer's ability to keep warm during the power failure, and that it realizes that even a temporary outage of just a few seconds can wreak havoc on electronics. "It was not a good day for anyone, quite frankly," Solomon said.
Solomon also explained various energy efficiency programs, saying that it is cheaper for the utility to pay people to conserve power rather than build new power plants.
Commissioner Tad Hegsted made a motion that the county take advantage of a free energy audit, saying that in his business, Challenger Pallet, his energy use for lighting a building had been cut by nearly 75 percent after
Commissioner Brian Farnsworth seconded the motion and it was passed unanimously.