“First, you need to know that there are different levels of entities who are working to ensure electrical capacity and reliability. Dawson Public Power District is on the low end as a small, rural utility,” said Cole Brodine, Manager of Engineering.
As a local power provider, Dawson PPD works with its wholesale power supplier, Nebraska Public Power District. NPPD generates and delivers power through the transmission grid. At a higher level, the Southwest Power Pool also works on supply, transmission and demand issues. The SPP helps balance power needs and production from Montana to Louisiana. It also monitors and plans the transmission system that routes power where it is needed.
‘We want to build a…’
When a developer proposes a large project in Dawson PPD’s service territory, it starts with an engineering study. The first questions are about the amount of electricity required and the property where the project will be built. The next big question is: Does Dawson PPD currently have the ability to serve them at that location?
Dawson PPD employs two full-time electrical engineers who evaluate and plan for the service territory. When they study the district’s ability to serve a potential large project, they look at all the data for the area. They know the existing equipment and lines, how power is fed from NPPD and how the power grid functions in that area. Historical electric loading information for summer and winter is also used. The engineers use their five-, ten- and twenty-year projections for load growth and system improvements.
As Dawson PPD is making the local determinations about the ability to serve, they consult with NPPD to study the power supply and transmission grid that will serve the load. NPPD’s team of engineers use data to determine if they are able to serve the new load. If the project is feasible, then it is sent to SPP for additional study. The process can take months to complete.
Another concern is the timeline for development. If infrastructure needs to be built, can it be completed on an agreed schedule? Discussions also include the price of infrastructure improvements, which the new customer pays.
Decisions about serving a new, large load are thoroughly studied before any project gets a green light. If the project is large enough, both NPPD and the SPP will have to approve before it can be served by Dawson PPD.
We are not on an island
Part of ensuring reliability is working with neighboring power districts on joint planning. This means that major grid improvements are coordinated with neighboring districts.
Dawson PPD has power line connections with our neighboring districts and NPPD. In emergencies, power can be routed to them or they can send power to Dawson PPD. An example of this is the transmission line that runs from Smithfield to Bertrand. It benefits both Dawson PPD and Southern PPD, giving another option to provide reliable power.
“Dawson PPD doesn’t exist in a vacuum. The joint planning group keeps us working together for the benefit of all the customers. Public power districts assist each other to make sure the customers get served,” Brodine said.