Weather issues at SRP plants in NE Ariz. spark rolling power outages in Valley

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PHOENIX – Wednesday morning’s extremely cold temperatures meant there was a spiking demand for power as people cranked up their heaters. Combine that with two Salt River Project plants being offline and the result was some planned rolling blackouts throughout the Valley.

Patty Likens of SRP said the blackouts were systemwide throughout SRP’s territory.

Likens said SRP was “shedding the load on our end so that people don’t lose power without our controlling it.”

The reason behind the rolling blackouts was some issues related to the cold weather at SRP's coal-fired plants in Springerville and Page in northeastern Arizona, Likens said. SRP was working on fixing those problems, but the plants were not producing their usual amount of electricity.

"In the meantime, because we don't have enough generation coming into the Valley, we're shedding loads," she said early Wednesday morning.

Load shedding is essentially power rationing. It’s something utility companies do when the demand for electrical power exceeds the generated capacity that’s available.

Basically SRP took a defined group of customers offline, and then brought them back up while taking down another defined group of customers.

The blackouts happened during Wednesday's morning peak. About 65,000 customers were affected.

According to Likens, the power outages did not last too long and they were not too widespread at any one time. One Mesa resident said his power was off for about 10 to 15 minutes.

“These are short-term outages to avoid the long-term outages,” Likens explained.

Planned rolling blackouts, which are a rarity here in the Valley, are designed to keep the main grid from overloading.

By 8 a.m., the rolling outages had ended and things were running smoothly.