Ottawa plant generates extra power, avoids blackouts

Greg Mast
The Ottawa Herald

The city of Ottawa took steps to keep patrons with power as other public utilities were not able to meet their customers' needs during this week’s deep freeze.

Public utilities were forced to issue rolling blackouts to conserve energy and not overload their grids. Ottawa’s power plant began generating its own power Monday morning to meet the increased demand, city officials said.

“We do not know yet what the final impact will be on the City of Ottawa system but what is in our favor is that we have been generating since early (Monday) morning and will be generating even more in order to meet the needs of our residential and business community,” said Ottawa city manager Richard Nienstedt. “Severe winter weather creates the same strain on the grid that extreme hot weather does.”

City officials cautioned throughout the week of sub-zero temperatures that Ottawans should conserve as much energy as possible by turning off lights and unplugging unused appliances, etc.

“The best assistance you can give to the community at this time is to conserve the power you are using to the best of your ability,” Nienstedt said. “We appreciate your assistance on behalf of our community.”

Nienstedt did not rule out blackouts in the future as customer needs increase during weather-related situations.

“While our electric department is relatively sure we will not have blackouts that does not mean it might not happen at some point in time as dictated by weather conditions and you should take steps to utilize emergency power if the need arises,” Nienstedt said. “We are in conversations with other power companies and electric associations continuously so we can assess this event.”

Public utilities across the state and nation began the blackouts Monday and continued through Wednesday, forcing many businesses and schools to close.

The worst of the cold snap was Monday and Tuesday with lows in the windchills reaching minus 30 degrees and highs near zero or just above in the area.

Temperatures began to rise Wednesday with highs in the 20s, which eased the pressure on the grid.