Businesses, schools help reduce rolling blackouts

Published: Feb. 16, 2021 at 6:26 PM CST
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HASTINGS, Neb. (KSNB) - Parts of the Tri-Cities were put in the dark as part of rolling blackouts to help reduce the strain on the overwhelmed power system across the region.

When one area of a power district is dealing with bad weather, another district in a different state or region can often pick up the slack. With much of the country dealing with winter storms all at the same time, power had to be reduced to relieve the overwhelmed systems.

The blackouts were planned ahead since the systems were straining to keep places running through the record cold. In Grand Island, they started with the industrial businesses Monday night reducing their energy use. Tuesday morning they got a call asking for even more of a reduction. Grand Island Utilities planned 30-minute blackouts in areas of town that had less stop lights or essential services.

“We were trying to stay with a lot of our residential customers because I didn’t really want to affect businesses because it’s more of a bottom line for them so we tried to surgically look at meters that we had lightly loaded,” Grand Island Utilities Director Tim Luchsinger said.

In Hastings they also asked more of the industrial businesses to go dark or reduce their power. Places like Dutton-Lainson, Centennial Plastics, and the two school districts were part of a larger group that pitched in. Hastings College elected to have staff and students work remotely since they have that option at the ready for the pandemic.

“We sent an email to students and employees to unplug things that were draining a lot of electricity,” Hastings College Executive Vice President Susan Meeske said. “So things like space heaters were a big one. We did turn the temperature down in all the buildings. In fact, today we have closed a lot of academic buildings.”

Thermo King was among the list that volunteered to slow their production to help. They did not turn on many of their larger machines until the afternoon. The hope was to have the scheduled blackout so the employees would be prepared.

“At Thermo King we just want to be a great corporate citizen and help out the community in any way we can,” Thermo King EHS Lead William Norcross said. “We’re one of the larger manufacturing facilities in the area. We want to be that company that people look at if they need help they can come to us.”

The Grand Island and Hastings Utilities said they hope the blackouts are done but they are not out of the woods yet. they ask people to continue their efforts to reduce their energy use. they suggest turning the heat down, taking shorter showers, and anything else for the next day or two until the systems are not as overwhelmed.

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