Utility customers step up to plate - East Valley Tribune: News

Utility customers step up to plate

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Posted: Friday, July 23, 2004 5:59 am | Updated: 5:22 pm, Thu Oct 6, 2011.

At 3:05 p.m. Thursday, the Arizona Diamondbacks took the field at the 49,000-seat, air-conditioned Bank One Ballpark.

And Valley energy users entered yet another energy crunch time.

It may seem hypocritical that Arizona Public Service, a Diamondbacks sponsor, placed thousands of automated phone calls reminding customers to conserve power at the same time the team was playing a game in the chilled dome.

But the ballpark is part of a downtown cooling system that uses water that is cooled during off-peak hours, similar to one being built for the arts center in downtown Mesa.

"There’s very little load associated with the facility as compared to what it would be if cooled by conventional air conditioning," APS spokesman Mark Fallon said.

APS and Salt River Project, the Valley’s two major electric utilities, have urged the users of a collective 1.5 million business and home accounts to cut back on their energy use from 3 to 6 p.m..

APS and SRP officials say public conservation has been crucial in helping them prevent rolling blackouts.

"We see the peak growing throughout the day and then when we get to the 3 to 6 (p.m.) time period, they’re seeing it leveling off," SRP spokesman Jeff Lane said.

The Valley’s electrical grid has been strained since a July 4 fire damaged five out of 13 transformers at the Westwing substation in the West Valley.

The Diamondbacks have lost 26 of their past 30 games, including Thursday’s.

As the Diamondbacks slither through their weekend games, the weakened power grid should hold up, thanks to historically lower weekend usage, temperatures down slightly from Thursday’s high of 110 degrees, an increasing chance of monsoon storms, and consumers who’ve been saving 200 to 300 megawatts a day.

"I’m optimistic that with the continued customer support we can get through the weekend," APS spokesman Mark Fallon said. "If everybody goes into the weekend and turns their thermostat to 76 degrees from 80 or 82 degrees, I’m less optimistic," he said.

The utilities are now up to 85 percent of their normal transmission capacity, but the power crisis won’t truly loosen its grip until a transformer wending its way here from the Pacific Northwest is online by mid-August.

Also, a transformer that was damaged by a fire Tuesday at APS’ Deer Valley facility in northwest Phoenix is being repaired and should be up and running next week.

APS customers between 44th Street, McDonald Drive and Doubletree and Scottsdale roads who have been told they are at slightly higher risk for power outages than the rest of the Valley should be OK by this morning. A cable fault unrelated to the transformer fires which "sort of limits our ability to route power in that specific area" is being repaired, Fallon said.

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