System braves extreme, bold north cold

It was the coldest of times the last week of January as temperatures plunged to record lows across the Midwest. When severe winter cold puts the electric grid to the test, Great River Energy’s generation and transmission assets are carefully operated and monitored to ensure electricity continues to power member-consumers’ homes.

The cooperative’s resilient transmission system met the test with no outages or issues.

During the recent cold spell, temperatures dipped to -30 F throughout much of the region. Great River Energy’s generation portfolio, including Coal Creek Station near Underwood, N.D., provided its member-owner cooperatives with needed power. As seen in the photo, the plant emits lot of water vapor from the stacks, cooling towers and ponds during such cold temperatures.

During the recent cold spell, temperatures dipped to -30 degrees Fahrenheit throughout much of the region. Great River Energy’s generation portfolio, including Coal Creek Station near Underwood, N.D., provided member-owner cooperatives with needed power. As seen in the photo, the plant emits a lot of water vapor from the stacks, cooling towers and ponds during such cold temperatures.

“Our system performed great under extreme winter weather conditions thanks to our dedicated employees in the field and system operations. They worked around the clock to keep the grid operating for our member-consumers,” said Priti Patel, Great River Energy’s vice president and chief transmission officer. “The system performed reliably due to good planning and preparation, solid real-time operations and a bit of luck – thankfully we had all three.”

Crews were dispatched Jan. 30 to check on at least 60 cold-weather alarms when the outside temperature felt like -50 F. As is typical during the extreme cold, scheduled maintenance activity on the transmission system was kept to a minimum.

Great River Energy also worked closely with the Midcontinent Independent System Operator (MISO) and neighboring utilities to prepare for possible scenarios. This helped ensure the cooperative could reliably meet its member-owner cooperatives’ demand for energy.

On Jan. 28, MISO issued a cold weather alert, which helps provide situational awareness for MISO members as the regional transmission operator works to ensure all necessary resources are available to meet energy demands.

“Our crews worked through the night to ensure our generation facilities had ample fuel supplies to reliably operate the plants,” said Great River Energy Vice President and Chief Generation Officer Rick Lancaster.

MISO declared a maximum generation emergency event Jan. 30. This is a procedure to ensure system reliability by preparing all available generation to be dispatched in case of an emergency. Coal Creek Station and Spiritwood Station operated well in the extreme cold, and some Great River Energy employees braved the cold to ensure the plants continued to operate. A few of its peaking units operated in the morning, and MISO called upon all available Great River Energy peaking stations to begin generating electricity at 2 p.m. Jan. 30 through the evening.

Great River Energy’s demand response programs played a critical role in the response to the extreme weather as well. On Jan. 29, Great River Energy dispatched dual fuel and peak-shave water heaters which resulted in demand reduction of 359 megawatts.

The cooperative also dispatched full load control including all interruptible commercial and industrial generators on Jan. 30. This load control event resulted in a record demand reduction of 459 megawatts. Over the course of the two-day cold weather event, Great River Energy realized estimated load management impacts of 3,112 megawatt-hours. This also helped the cooperative avoid additional real-time purchases from the energy market.