Powering the Heartland on high demand days

Powering the Heartland on high demand days
By: Arnold Wyrick
The Lake of Egypt power plant in Williamson County generates enough electricity to meet the needs of everyone, and everything in a 24 county region of Southern Illinois.  But the extreme heat over the past few days is pushing their generating capabilities to the limit.
"We're running equipment at full load all the time, or close to full load.  Anytime you stress equipment for long periods of time without much relief, you always have a possibility of equipment break down," says Systems & Marketing Manager Bill Hutchison.
The power plant relies upon two coal fired generators and two gas turbine engines to generate a peak of 433 megawatts per hour.
"These past few days we've been at or above 400 megawatts per hour, for 24 hours.  Generally our peak time in this kind of weather is at 5 o'clock to 6 o'clock.  When everybody gets home, everybody likes to get in the house and make sure the house is cool," Hutchison said.
But if the plant can't keep up with the demands placed upon it by all those customers, they can always tap into an electrical grid that spans throughout the Mid-West, and East Coast.
Keep in mind though as you hit that switch to kick on your air conditioner at the end of the day, that electricity is unlike any other product we use on a daily basis.
"It's a real time product.  What we're generating right now, we're consuming right now.  It's not like you can generate extra now and save it for later.  There's no storage capability of electrical energy," Hutchison said.
But Hutchison says they're two very key things we can all do to reduce our electrical demands.
"Find a more moderate comfort setting for your thermostats.  Set it just slightly above where you think you'd be comfortable.  And secondly try to avoid using those high energy appliances, like dishwashers, and cloths dryers during peak periods."