Dec. 4—MORGANTOWN — As winter prepares to set in, PJM — which oversees the 13-state regional energy grid — and its member utilities and power suppliers are preparing to meet the heightened power demand.
"Planning to keep the power flowing during the cold weather months, and all year long, is important to the 65 million people we serve, " said PJM President and CEO Manu Asthana. "We are constantly working with our members to learn from extreme weather events across the country, and together we have further strengthened our preparations and processes for this winter."
PJM said it predicts a peak daily demand of 137, 000 megawatts (MW) this winter and will have 186, 000 MW of resources ready. PJM's all-time winter peak was 143, 295 MW, set on Feb. 20, 2015.
PJM said that each year, it performs winter readiness assessments in advance of the cold weather months. These assessments include data collection on fuel inventory, supply and delivery characteristics, emissions limitations and minimum operating temperatures.
It also meets with federal and state regulators and neighboring systems to review winter preparations, and conducts weekly operational review meetings with major natural gas pipeline operators serving generators in its footprint to coordinate operations with the pipelines that supply a large portion of the gas generation fleet.
PJM said it analyzes the expected demand for electricity, weather predictions and other factors to develop its forecast for winter operations. Its ongoing Cold Weather Preparation Guideline and Checklist for generation owners includes everything from increasing staffing for weather emergencies to performing required maintenance activities to prepare equipment for winter conditions.
PJM said it learned lessons from the Texas power grid failure in February 2021. Asteh Texas Tribune summarized the problem, during the power grid crisis, all sources of electricity struggled during the frigid temperatures. The inability of power plants to perform in the extreme cold was the No. 1 cause of the outages.
And during Texas' 2021 winter storm, the Tribune said, transmission companies inadvertently cut power to parts of the natural gas supply chain when ERCOT (Energy Reliability Council of Texas) ordered the utilities to reduce power demand or risk further damage to the grid. That decision aggravated the problem as natural gas producers were unable to deliver enough fuel to power plants. At the same time, some wells were unable to produce as much natural gas due to the freezing conditions.
In response to the Texas problems, PJM said it has added new rules and requirements to its cold weather guidelines for operators. For example, PJM for the first time is requiring that generators provide verification of their facilities' cold weather operating temperature limit.
And stakeholders in November approved permanent rule changes to PJM's emergency procedures to account for generator constraints resulting from supply chain issues, fuel shortages or regulatory restraints, including emissions limitations.
In 2021, PJM said, it initiated a weekly fuel and non-fuel consumables data request for all generators that use coal or oil as their primary or backup fuel. "Capturing this data more frequently allows PJM to better understand any fuel supply, supply chain or transportation issues that could impact generators, and the practice was extended through all of 2022 and into this winter."
Mike Bryson, PJM senior vice president for operations, said, "We now have better visibility into generators' supply of fuels and other material critical to their operation, and we expect that recent rule changes will enhance the flexibility those generators need to rebuild their supplies when facing shortfalls beyond their control. This coordination is helpful as we work together to ensure that, even in the most extreme weather or other challenging circumstances, the grid remains reliable."
Mon Power preparations Mon Power, a FirstEnergy company, serves about 395, 000 people in 34 West Virginia counties and is part of the PJM grid. Mon Power said in an email exchange, "If there was an issue with power sources in West Virginia or Maryland, we have the flexibility to pull power sources from several different states to ensure our customers receive the power they depend on."
Mon Power said it is conducting inspections and maintenance to help keep power flowing to customers in its West Virginia service area this winter.
"Our customers are counting on safe, reliable power to keep them comfortable in the months ahead, and it's essential that we take proactive steps to ensure that our system and our utility vehicles are well prepared for the challenges of winter weather, " said Jim Myers, president of FirstEnergy's West Virginia operations.
Mon Power said its utility personnel are inspecting substation equipment and winterizing substation control buildings to ensure that essential components of its system continue to function properly during cold weather.
Electricians also inspect critical components using special thermovision cameras, which capture infrared images that can reveal potential problems that aren't visible through regular visual inspections.
Tree trimming throughout the year also helps meet the rigors of winter operations by maintaining proper clearances around electrical systems and helping to protect against tree-related outages caused by snow, high winds and ice, Mon Power said.
And company bucket trucks and other vehicles are being inspected to help ensure safe operation during the winter season.
At its regulated power plants, Fort Martin Power Station and Harrison Power Station, Mon Power said ithas completed maintenance on plant equipment and executed its winterization plan to ensure optimal performance during the winter months.
Finally, Mon Power offers tips for customers to help them through the cold months:
— Set thermostats as low as comfort will allow. Every degree a customer can decrease the temperature in their home will result in using about 3 % less energy during the winter.
— Seal any leaks around windows and door frames with caulk or weather stripping to prevent cold air from sneaking into your home.
— Close the fireplace damper when it is not in use to keep cold air out.
— Close the drapes at night. During the day, only open those that receive direct sunlight.
— Use a programmable or smart thermostat to keep temperatures lower when no one is home and to increase the temperature before arrival back home.
— Check furnace fan filters. Clogged filters waste energy and money by forcing a heating system to work harder than necessary.
— Make sure your home is properly insulated. If you have less than six inches of insulation, you'll benefit by adding more.
(c)2022 The Dominion Post (Morgantown, W.Va.)
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