Heatwave causes brownouts in NYC as power use spikes

Reuters News
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Posted: Jul 22, 2011 12:58 PM
Heatwave causes brownouts in NYC as power use spikes

NEW YORK (Reuters) - A brutal heatwave caused brownouts as homes and businesses in New York City and Westchester County crank up their air conditioners and could push power usage to a new all-time record on Friday, said power provider Consolidated Edison.

Power companies across the Northeast, including Con Edison, said they had enough electricity to meet the demand, but warned heavy usage could stress some power lines and generating facilities, which could leave some customers in the dark temporarily.

Con Edison reduced the voltage, a so-called brownout, due to equipment failures in several neighborhoods in Westchester and Queens overnight, affecting more than 100,000 customers.

The company said it fixed the problems and ended both the Queens and Westchester brownouts Friday morning.

Customers do not lose power in a voltage reduction. Con Edison had only 500 customers without power early Friday.

Many customers do not notice the voltage has been reduced. The reduction primarily affects things like incandescent lights, hot water heaters and some motors.

The U.S. National Weather Service issued an excessive heat warning until 10 p.m. EDT (0200 GMT) for the New York City area.

Temperatures in New York will reach 99 Fahrenheit (37 Celsius) on Friday with the humidity making it feel more like 112 F, according to weather forecaster AccuWeather.com.

The heatwave will not break until Sunday when the mercury returns to more normal levels in the 80s and low 90s F.

Con Edison said usage peaked at 12,710 megawatts on Thursday. That was shy of the all-time record of 13,141 MW set in August 2006 before the economic recession weakened demand.

The company said demand could top the record on Friday.

VOLTAGE REDUCTION

Con Edison said it reduced the voltage in parts of central and western Queens early Friday morning affecting about 107,000 customers due to problems on electrical equipment.

Con Edison reduced the voltage in parts of Westchester, including the towns of Elmsford, Greenburgh, Ardsley, Irvington and Tarrytown, affecting about 29,000 customers.

Both voltage reductions ended Friday morning.

The company reduced the voltage in both areas as a precaution to protect equipment and maintain service as crews work to repair the problem.

During the voltage reduction, Con Edison asked customers in the affected areas not to use appliances such as washers, dryers, air conditioners and other energy-intensive equipment and to turn off lights and televisions when not needed.

In addition to the customers affected by the voltage reduction, Con Edison urged all consumers to conserve power to help keep the lights on and air conditioners humming.

Con Edison and other energy service providers in the state and across the U.S. Northeast activated some of their demand response programs, which pay consumers to reduce power usage during peak times when needed.

Customers can reduce their power usage by turning up the air conditioner thermostat, turning off lights, elevators and other electrical equipment, and for those with backup generators on site, producing their own electricity.

(Reporting by Scott DiSavino; Editing by John Picinich and Lisa Shumaker)