Maintaining a Reliable Electric Supply is No Easy Task
Reliable electric service to our homes and businesses is a luxury we often take for granted. Unfortunately, we may not think about how important a reliable energy supply is to us until we have to go without it, like during a severe storm. It is in these times that utility employees work tirelessly to restore electricity to your home or business.
Where does your electricity come from? Although some may answer “the light switch,” for Nebraska’s public power providers the answer is a complex system of transmission and distribution lines and a generation mix stemming from multiple resources.
Electricity travels from its point of generation through electrical lines at the speed of light into your home. As a result, when you flip that light switch the lights come on instantaneously. The state’s electric providers operate load control centers where they monitor electric demand and relay messages to power plants telling them to increase or decrease generation, to match consumer demand at any given moment.
Currently, a technically feasible and economical means to store large amounts of electricity does not exist. There are no large battery systems capable of storing excess capacity for a later time when that power is needed. This means that in order for you to have power, a generator has to be running the moment you turn on your light switch.
This also means that reliable generation resources are necessary for reliable electric service.
Generation resources like, coal, nuclear, natural gas, or hydroelectric power are baseload resources which run continuously and can be controlled to meet load demands. Variable resources like wind and solar, however, rely on environmental conditions which can be hard to reliably predict, especially in Nebraska. As wind speeds vary or cloud cover changes, the electric output from these renewable generation resources can fluctuate dramatically and in an unpredictable manner. This complicates an already difficult load-balancing process.
As these fluctuations occur, baseload generation resources have to be available so your electric service remains constant. Unfortunately, most baseload power plants were not built to be continuously ramped up and down. Unlike your light switch, they cannot be turned on and off at a moment’s notice.
Nebraska’s energy experts are managing the demands of a complex electric grid while responsibly increasing the use of environmentally friendly renewable energy resources and doing so with fewer outages than our neighboring states.