Record highs mean record power usage -, Albany News, Weather, Sports

Record highs mean record power usage

August 8, 2007

Dougherty County --  Georgia Power reached a new electrical usage peak of 17,745 megawatts Tuesday. Georgia Power is meeting that demand, but they're doing it without the help they typically get from the state's 20 hydro-electric plants. 

The drought has dried up the hydro-electric resource and forced Georgia Power to rely on costlier alternatives like coal and nuclear power to keep up with the demand. 

Plant Mitchell's peaking generator kicked on Wednesday to keep up with increasing power demands. "To meet that extra surge whenever the air conditioners are running and the power demand are high on our system," said Plant Manager Ronnie Walston.

It's needed more than usual, because the drought has minimized the water flow through the Flint River Dam.

"We have three units there, and only one unit is running now at approximately half load, so that gives you some idea of exactly how much the low flow is affecting us," said Walston.

It's the same situation at other Georgia hydroelectric plants, several of the 20 statewide are functioning at full capacity.  It's forced Plant Mitchell to go with costlier alternatives including coal and diesel or natural gas to run the peaking generators.

"We have to make up for it with coal generation.  We have a number of coal plants that are operating efficiently this time of year as well as our nuclear plants," said Walston. 

Air conditioning units are the biggest draw on the system right now, commercial and residential and Georgia Power says customers can help keep the record demand in check by locking in their thermostat.

"Keep that thermostat set on 78º really for every degree below that you set it adds to your electric bill significantly and the demand on the system," said Walston. 

A system that's been stretched to new peak highs during a time when the state's cheapest way to produce power is nearly all dried up. 

Other ways you can help minimize the strain on the power supply is to use heat producing appliances later in the evening.  If you can use the microwave instead of the oven that helps.