Growth prompts local power failures
July 4, 2008
Recent electricity failures have Parkites on edge as Rocky Mountain Power explores ways to deliver more volts to the Wasatch Back.
"If we don’t do anything, the Wasatch Back is going to reach its maximum capacity in about 2010," said David Eskelsen, a Rocky Mountain Power spokesman.
Which could cause more power outages, he warned.
"When you approach your system’s maximum capacity, it gets less and less able to handle unusual things," Eskelsen said.
Electricity died from about 6:30 to 8:30 p.m. June 26 in Old Town and Deer Valley.
"There was a failure on one of the primary lines," Eskelsen said, adding that the outage impacted 1,387 customers. "That speaks to one of the reasons for bringing new electrical paths and delivery points. If we had that kind of flexibility to deal with problems as they arise, it makes outages much shorter."
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Another nearly two-hour electrical failure June 27 cut power to 61 Park City customers when a splice failed on an underground circuit early in the afternoon, Eskelsen explained.
"When the system is operating at its maximum capacity it is less tolerant to those kinds of failures," he said.
A power outage Monday from 1:02 to 1:39 a.m. impacted about 4,400 customers in Henefer, Echo, Coalville, Hoytsville, Wanship, Peoa and Oakley.
"It could have been debris onto the line, a bird or an animal," Eskelsen said about the cause. "Sometimes, we just don’t know."
Explosive growth in Summit and Wasatch counties contributes to electricity failures.
"What we really need is another path for electricity into the area," Eskelsen said. "If you have a problem and you have more than one path for electricity you can often restore the customers’ service in minutes while you make the permanent repair."
The new Thief Creek transmission line could deliver electricity to North Summit from near southwest Wyoming.
"The Thief Creek project is part of our plan to increase the level of flexibility," Eskelsen said.
But Cliff Blonquist, a spokesman for Summit County, said Rocky Mountain Power should not build the line near Chalk Creek Road.
"One of our ideas is to maybe put it near the Coalville area," Eskelsen replied. "That would bolster supplies of energy, particularly to the northern end of the Wasatch Back."
The new line could stretch from North Summit to the Silver Creek substation at the intersection of State Road 248 and U.S. 40.
"Just like every place else in Utah, that’s a center of residential and commercial activity, the Wasatch Back has been growing," Eskelsen said.
Three pathways currently funnel power to Summit and Wasatch counties.
The southernmost runs up Provo Canyon past Deer Creek reservoir into Midway. Electricity for Park City and the Snyderville Basin mostly comes via two 138,000-volt transmission lines that connect the Silver Creek substation with Salt Lake County.
"There are 46,000-volt lines that branch out into Park City, Kamas and Oakley," Eskelsen said.
The third electrical path flows to the Henefer area along Interstate 84.
"When we talk about reliability and the need for expansion, it’s usually to make sure there is enough capacity," Eskelsen said. "When we start getting a circuit up to 80 percent of its capacity, we start planning for expansion."
With a growth rate of almost seven percent, the Wasatch Back is sprawling at a speed that is two times the state average, according to Eskelsen.
"Typical residential customers today are using about 26 percent more electricity than they did 20 years ago," he said. "We have to build to match that peak demand."
Interested residents may submit a question or comment about the Thief Creek project by e-mailing ConstructionProjects@pacificorp.com, or calling (801) 220-4221.