Can Arizona’s power grid withstand extreme heat?

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With the brutally hot summer we’ve had, our air conditioning units have constantly been in use. So what does that mean for our power grid? Can it withstand this strain?

ASU Regents Professor and Ira A. Fulton Chair Professor Vijay Vittal joined Arizona Horizon to discuss it. Vittal is also a Foundation Professor in Electric Power Systems at ASU.

What is a power grid?

The electrical grid is a complex system made up of power generating stations, transmission lines, substations, transformers, power lines and infrastructure delivering electricity to homes, businesses and industries. Providing reliable power for customers while expanding the grid and keeping power low-cost and reliable is a delicate balance.

Record-breaking heat

This summer has seen week after week of record-breaking, triple-digit heat. Arizona residents have had their air conditioners going almost non-stop. This constant use can put a serious strain on the power grid.

Host Ted Simons asked Vittal how our power grid has done so far this year. “Pretty good,” Vittal said. “I think they have done a very good job this summer.”

Phoenix city officials and electricity providers said our power grid is highly reliable.

Planning helps

Vittal also said good planning helps. “They would have had the July forecast toward the end of June” so they could plan ahead, he said.

Both Salt River Project (SRP) and Arizona Public Service (APS) said they had definitely been planning for the temperatures. The summer has seen outages, but no massive disruptions. A spokesperson for APS said the highest power load ever recorded in the system was July 30, 2020, at 5 p.m., and the power system handled it. 

Vittal also said it helps that our state has not seen too many thunderstorms this summer.

Prior to his time at ASU, Vittal was an Anson Marston Distinguished Professor at the Iowa State University, Electrical and Computer Engineering Department. In addition, Vittal was a Murray and Ruth Harpole Professor and director of the university’s Electric Power Research Center and site director of the National Science Foundation IUCRC Power System Engineering Research Center.

Vijay Vittal, ASU Regents Professor and Ira A. Fulton Chair Professor, Foundation Professor in Electric Power Systems at ASU

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