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How local power companies prepare for severe winter weather

Why NE Wisconsin isn't having power issues
How local power companies prepare for extreme cold weather
Posted at 6:31 PM, Feb 18, 2021
and last updated 2021-02-18 23:13:00-05

GREEN BAY (NBC26) — Northeast Wisconsin isn't experiencing power outages and rolling blackouts like many southern states.

Officials with Wisconsin Public Service said it all comes down to planning and preparing for severe weather and winer conditions.

“Oftentimes what we see in the winter months, and the impact that we see to our system, is trees and tree limbs getting coated with ice or snow, or being broken by severe winds. Those then fall into our electric distribution equipment and our facilities, and that could lead to a power outage," said Matt Cullen, a spokesperson for WPS. "So those are the types of situations that our employees have experience in handling and dealing with.”

WPS serves approximately 453,000 electric and 335,000 natural gas customers in northeast and north central Wisconsin.

Cullen said the power company plans for how much energy customers will need during the winter months to ensure there's enough capacity to meet demand.

Power grids also play a role in the situation.

Larger energy networks are made through interconnected local grids. There are three major interconnections in North America: The Eastern Interconnection, the Western Interconnection and the The Electric Reliability Council of Texas, which covers most of Texas.

Wisconsin is in the Eastern Interconnection. According to the U.S. Energy Information Association, the structure provides multiple routes for power to flow, allowing generators to supply electricity to many load centers.

While Wisconsin might be able to tap into that network, most of Texas cannot. Most of the state relies on an independent power grid. The rolling blackouts reduce demand on that grid.

“Each different company, and each different entity, and grid operator has to prepare for those scenarios and those situations that may impact their customers in their regions of the country," Cullen said. "For us here, it’s knowing that we have a wide variety of weather events and scenarios that can occur, whether it be very cold temperatures or the hottest summer days, and then taking steps accordingly to make sure we have the energy that we need to provide to our customers."

There are still ways Wisconsinites can reduce power usage and stay warm in extreme low temperatures. Alliant Energy offers these suggestions:

  • Turn your thermostat down at night and when you're away
  • Seal windows and block drafts around doorway
  • Turn off fans
  • Close shades at night to help retain heat
  • Keep garage doors closed
  • Don't block air vents or radiators
  • Keep the intake and exhaust clear of ice and snow