Interruptions for Improvements
Like any electric provider, our cooperative aims to make your electric service as reliable as possible. Planned power outages — though rare — help us achieve that goal.
First, technological advances allow us to strengthen the grid. Stronger poles and wires, the development of devices that better protect equipment from winds and wildlife, and the creation of smart grid technologies all reduce the chances outages occur, especially during storms.
To make these upgrades, though, we sometimes have to shut off power. Planned outages allow us to notify our members about when these will occur and how long the outages will last, allowing them to mitigate any inconveniences the outages might cause.
Ronald Wade, manager of operations and engineering for South Alabama Electric Cooperative, says planned outages are infrequent but happen primarily when his crews perform voltage conversions. “We will sometimes convert a line that is 12,500 volts to 25,000 volts,” Wade says. “In order to do that, we’ve got to have a power outage to change out the transformers and so forth.”
In those cases, members will be notified by mail of the exact dates and times of the planned outage. Wade says those jobs, which normally occur a few times every two or three years, are usually done in the early morning hours and during milder weather to cause as little disruption as possible for residents and businesses. “Normally, it’s no longer than a two-hour outage,” he says.
Second, regular maintenance — like replacing a damaged or deteriorating utility pole or tree trimming near power lines — may also require planned outages. These outages allow our employees to work in a safer environment.
A third reason planned outages may occur is the need to relocate lines and other equipment ahead of public infrastructure improvements like road expansion projects. Planned outages can also occur when we need to add new members to the grid.
Wade says SAEC doesn’t routinely make telephone calls or send emails to members to alert them to pending planned outages beyond the larger voltage conversions. He does, however, urge members to make sure their contact information is up to date in case they need to be contacted.
“Sometimes, we don’t have current information,” he says. “So, we put information in bills and in our monthly magazine all along about keeping us up to date. It’s very important that our members make sure that we have their correct phone number.”
As your cooperative, we will aim to schedule these outages at the most convenient times. We also endeavor to provide our members with plenty of notice of any scheduled outages. Keeping your contact information updated will help us with those efforts.
WEATHERING PLANNED POWER OUTAGES
While losing power may not be ideal, members can take several steps to lessen the inconvenience caused by the necessary upgrades to our power grids.
- Charge cellphones ahead of any outage. Keep them and a list of emergency contact numbers in case help is needed.
- Keep flashlights and a supply of batteries for them handy.
- Turn off major appliances like washers and dryers so they do not run unexpectedly when power returns. This includes ovens, stoves and any other heat-generating devices that could cause fire if left unattended while operational.
- Keep refrigerators and freezers closed to preserve the cold temperatures longer.
- Make sure garages can be manually opened.
- Notify alarm system companies of the impending outage.
- Ensure generators are properly installed since improperly installed generators can damage property or harm others.
- Have a reserve of water for cooking, flushing and other needs if your water system relies on electrical service to operate.
Sources: Puget Sound Energy, Pacific Gas and Electric, PPL Electric Utilities and the National Rural Electric Cooperative Association