A reliable balancing act

Power for Progress…
A weekly column from the Grand River Dam Authority

A GRDA interconnect … GRDA’s ability to provide low-cost, reliable electricity to customers is enhanced not only by the skills of dedicated and knowledgeable employees, but also by facilities like this one. All play an important role in helping GRDA maintain the electrical supply and demand balance.

A GRDA interconnect … GRDA’s ability to provide low-cost, reliable electricity to customers is enhanced not only by the skills of dedicated and knowledgeable employees, but also by facilities like this one. All play an important role in helping GRDA maintain the electrical supply and demand balance.

One of the interesting things about electricity is that it’s the only real-time commodity bought and sold on the market. Unlike other commodities, it cannot be stored. Rather, it must be generated and consumed right when it is needed. Because of that, there is delicate balancing act of supply and demand always taking place, behind-the-scenes and round-the-clock.

You may recall the major electric blackout of 2003, which stretched across parts of the Northeast, Midwest and Canada and affected nearly 55 million people. It began when electric transmission lines in rural Ohio came into contact with “overgrown trees” during a time of very high demands for electricity (mid August). Unfortunately, it soon cascaded across other bulk power systems in eight states and Ontario. The event demonstrated just how interconnected all electric utilities really are and also the need for new reliability standards and system upgrades to help maintain the important balance.

Soon after, the Energy Policy Act of 2005 empowered the North American Electric Reliability Corporation (NERC) with the authority to set standards for the national electric grid and to enforce compliance with those standards.

At the Grand River Dam Authority, compliance is at the center of daily operations. GRDA’s system operators undergo 70 to 80 hours of training each year to insure they meet NERC standards. Meanwhile, they continue to be the constant eyes and controls over GRDA’s significant portion of the national electric power grid.

In terms of the bigger picture, GRDA is part of the Eastern Interconnect, one of the two major alternating current (AC) power grids in North America. The Eastern Connection reaches from Central Canada eastward to the Atlantic Cost (excluding Quebec), south to Florida and back west to the foot of the Rockies (excluding most of Texas).

Truly, GRDA and the rest of the nation’s electric utilities are tied together to deliver a real-time commodity to customers, 24/7. In fact, that is the very beginning of the GRDA mission: “to provide low-cost, reliable electric power and related services to our customers.”

Headquartered in Vinita, GRDA is Oklahoma’s state-owned electric utility; fully funded by revenues from electric and water sales instead of taxes.

 

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