For Frigid Temperatures, How Does the Power Grid Work in the Northland?

Power has just started being restored to millions in Texas following a deadly blast of winter that overwhelmed the electrical grid and left millions shivering in the cold this week. With many blaming their infrastructure for not being ready for winter, Minnesota Power talks about what the power grid looks like in our colder region.

NORTHLAND – Power has just started being restored to millions in Texas following a deadly blast of winter that overwhelmed the electrical grid and left millions shivering in the cold this week. With many blaming their infrastructure for not being ready for winter, Minnesota Power talks about what the power grid looks like in our colder region.

The power grid that Minnesota Power operates within is a 26,000 square mile area in Northeast Minnesota with a footprint of about 144,000 residential customers along with a number of municipalities as well as large industrial customers and with such a large area to cover, could this region see a similar scenario like what’s happening in Texas?

Minnesota Power leadership says they are well prepared for severe conditions and it’s not something people should worry about.

“Well, the extreme temperatures that we’re seeing across the country are more normal as for us here in this normal climate,” said Josh Skelton, the chief operating officer of Minnesota Power. “So our planning has to account for those scenarios both in the design of the equipment we select as well as the scenarios in which equipment runs.”

Extreme cold elevates demand and could have impacts on the supply of power, so management says it’s about planning for that margin if there is a gap.

For frigid temperatures, Minnesota Power has cold weather packages for their wind turbines along with a portfolio with resources that supports times when there isn’t enough wind or solar, and there may be times when solar or wind energy may not be available. Needs are met through converting gas to electric energy through steam or utilizing biomass to generate electricity.

“Lots of unique ways in which we meet our customer demand and a lot of hard work from folks to be prepared when the call comes to be online and serving those customers,” said Skelton. “Doing the right maintenance, doing the right level of maintenance, and working our preparation to be ready when the call comes.

Minnesota Power is also operating under a larger network called Midcontinent Independent System Operator or MISO, connecting 15 states along with Manitoba, which management says helps keep the lights on during adverse weather or operating events.

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