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Utah Power says there’s plenty of juice for the A/C

Utility prepared for demands of fiery summers

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Summer is officially here, and that means higher temperatures are on their way. But Utah residents need not fear that cranking up their air conditioners will lead to power shortages. Utah Power says there is plenty of power for everyone.

"We do not expect the kind of capacity shortages that exists in other areas, particularly in the Midwest and Northeast and some parts of northern California," said Dave Eskelsen, a Utah Power spokesman. "Physical conditions on our system are different."

Eskelsen said Utah Power is very aware that Utah is a summer peaking area, meaning this is the time customers use more electricity than any other time of the year, and so the company is prepared.

"Utah Power has for the last decade and a half had sufficient generation or access to supply all its needs," Eskelsen said.

The company has invested $80 million to upgrade its power plants to support the growth of customers, especially in Utah.

The key to being prepared for the summer is keeping a close eye on the demand for electricity throughout the day.

"There's a delicate dance that goes on throughout the day," he said. Generation increases in the morning, peaks in the late afternoon and falls off at night.

Electricity can't be stored; it must be generated and transported immediately to meet customers' needs. Utah Power has built several new substations along the Wasatch Front to increase the capacity of electricity the local power systems can deliver.

Since July 1998, Utah Power has installed more than 300 megawatts of electrical capacity, costing more than $90 million just for the Wasatch Front. That's enough energy to supply nearly 50,000 homes, Eskelsen said.

The last time Utah Power forced "brownouts" or rotations in power was 1996 in the Sandy and Draper area. However, Eskelsen said the outages were due not to a power shortage but to the lack of enough substations to distribute the power.

The Wasatch Front is growing so rapidly that existing Utah Power customers are using more power than ever, Eskelsen said. It has taken Utah Power several years to complete construction of new substations, bigger and additional transformers and line rebuilding projects, but the company is now prepared for the high energy demand.

The high temperatures in May and early June did cause a few problems, Eskelsen said, but since then Utah Power has completed those projects that will ensure enough generation and distribution of power.