Preparing for those times…

Power for Progress…

A weekly column from the Grand River Dam Authority

The recent storm damage and resulting power outages in the Tulsa area is another reminder of the impact severe weather can have on electric utilities.

While the Grand River Dam Authority was not impacted this time, it has certainly dealt with its share of cleanup and repairs too, following all kinds of damaging weather events. Bookend ice storms in 2007 (January and again in December) caused significant damage to the system that is still remembered by Team GRDA members who picked up the pieces. Tornados and other high wind episodes are also among the events from recent history.

GRDA personnel work together during restoration efforts following extensive tornado damage in the Picher community in the spring of 2008.

GRDA personnel work together during restoration efforts following extensive tornado damage in the Picher community in the spring of 2008.

With over 1,200 miles of high-voltage lines and hundreds of substations in the state (representing an investment of approximately $140 million in Oklahoma) GRDA certainly has a lot of infrastructure to maintain. And while it has been proven time and again that no system can be completely protected from weather extremes, the Authority has ongoing efforts to help prepare for those times.

The GRDA Vegetation Management Department clears roughly 500 miles of GRDA rights-of-way along power lines each year, beginning as soon as the weather permits in the spring and continuing on through the busy summer growing season. The work is critical to GRDA’s overall mission because a well-maintained ROW not only cuts down on the possibility of outages due to brush and limbs that could fall in high winds or ice storms, but it also allows for greater accessibility for GRDA’s power line maintenance crews when they must respond to storm damage. All the work done by the department is guided by regulations set forth by agencies like the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission (FERC) and the North American Electric Reliability Corporation (NERC).

Inside GRDA’s Energy Control Center NERC-certified system operators can keep a real-time eye on every point of the entire energy delivery system. That is possible because of GRDA’s Supervisory Control and Data Acquisition (SCADA) system and other equipment dedicated to gathering information, and is critical to have in times of weather troubles. Often times, if damage does occur, system operators can reroute electricity deliveries around those areas. When those redundancies exist, it allows for quicker restoration of power to the customer or sometimes, no real power interruption at all.

Of course, experienced personnel are also vital to protecting or restoring the system during weather troubles. At GRDA, every phase of the process – from engineering, planning and design to electricity delivery – is governed by the NERC standards for reliable electric service. GRDA’s goal is not only to meet those standards, but also to maintain its reputation for reliability.

Weather extremes will always be a reality, but ongoing maintenance efforts, state-of-the-art systems and experienced, dedicated personnel are always ready to respond.

Headquartered in Vinita, GRDA is Oklahoma’s state-owned electric utility; fully funded by revenues from electric and water sales instead of taxes. GRDA’s low-cost, reliable power touches 75 of 77 counties in the state. At no cost to Oklahoma taxpayers, GRDA also manages 70,000 surface acres of lakes in the state, including Grand Lake, Lake Hudson and the W.R. Holway Reservoir. Today, GRDA’s 500 employees continue to produce the same “power for progress” that has benefited the state for 75 years.

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