Campaigning for Trustee of
Overton Power District

Hello, Friends!

 

I enjoyed participating in three candidates forums this past week. Two were on October 8, the Chamber of Commerce luncheon and Press Candidates Forum at Wolf Creek Golf Club. The third was at Sun City on October 13. I wish I had been given the chance to answer more questions.

 

I am trying to meet with as many voters as I can. Almost everyone I talk with responds favorably and I really appreciate the support I am getting from so many people.

 

Election outcomes are hard to predict. I have a friend who lost a city council race by three votes. If you can get one or two votes for me by telling friends about my candidacy, you might be the one who gets me elected. Every vote really counts.


Your Electricity - Present & Future

This article appeared in the Desert Valley Times on October 14 and Moapa Valley Progress on October 15.

As a user of electricity, you expect your electric utility to provide for both your present and future needs. In the present, you expect reliable service at low rates. For the future, you can expect planning and preparation for the changes that are coming in the energy industry.

 

Overton Power District No. 5 (OPD) has done a good job at keeping rates low -- much lower than NV Energy rates in Las Vegas. OPD is able to do this for several reasons. First, it is a government entity, so ratepayers do not have to cough up for corporate profit and excessive executive salaries. Second, as an improvement District under NRS 318, OPD is an unregulated utility, and is not required to follow rules that apply to investor-owned utilities, such as NV Energy. Third, OPD gets some low-cost hydroelectric power from Hoover Dam.

 

As to reliability, OPD performs well under normal circumstances. Unfortunately, we had a very abnormal circumstance during the extreme storm that occurred on September 8. The power was out for about eight hours for most customers. This was caused by flooding of switching equipment at Reid Gardner Station, owned and operated by NV Energy. Personnel are to be commended for restoring service as rapidly as they did. But the failure could have lasted much longer, and the concurrent road closures could have been worse, and could have stranded many residents for days. In hot weather, this could have been a disaster resulting in loss of life.

 

What could OPD do about this? It seems pretty obvious that there could be a way to bypass the switch point, at least for the main power that comes from Arizona Public Service (APS). Obviously, this would cost money. OPD could also identify other possible failures that could cause long outages, and ways to prevent or shorten them. Costs for various reliability improvements would be taken to the Trustees for decisions on how to proceed. Management and the Trustees should engage the public in deciding which improvements are worth the cost.

 

In the future, one thing that is certain is that there will be change. Sources of energy are changing due to economic reasons, environmental concerns and regulations. When OPD's current contract with APS expires, APS may no longer be the lowest cost supplier, and coal may not be the lowest cost energy source.

 

Solar energy is coming. According to a conversation with General Manager Mendis Cooper, the residential solar installations in the District have approximately tripled in the past year. Home solar systems reduce the load on OPD during the middle of the day, but do not reduce the peak load, which occurs in the evening, when people return home from work. This could increase OPD's cost of energy, because the cheapest energy is from APS's coal plants, which must be purchased at a constant power level. The increasing customer-generated solar energy may cause OPD to buy energy differently in the future.

 

How about regulations? Nevada requires regulated utilities to get 25 percent of their energy from renewable sources by 2025. Fortunately for its ratepayers, OPD Is unregulated. But this could change. The Federal Government has issued requirements limiting carbon emissions for each state. Nevada could choose to place some of this burden on the unregulated utilities. At the annual meeting of the Nevada Rural Electric Association on September 11, attended by the author, there was a long presentation on these regulations and legal challenges to them. So there is large uncertainty. We don't know if the regulations will stand as issued, how they will be interpreted, or whether rural unregulated utilities in Nevada will be impacted.

 

In summary, there is a lot of uncertainty for electric utilities. The future will bring changes to sources of energy, costs, usage, load factors and regulations. There also will be unexpected emergencies and unpredictable occurrences. OPD needs to work diligently to be prepared for both expected and unexpected changes. It needs to avoid long term contracts for energy purchase unless the contracts are sufficiently flexible to accommodate future changes. Finally, OPD should engage the ratepayers in planning for the future and in making major decisions.


Solar Arrays and
Monitoring the Performance

One thing to consider in buying a solar array is how much monitoring you want. Being a bit of a technocrat, I like having monitoring capability. On the other hand, I know someone who is happy without any monitoring except for his electric meter. I also know someone with good monitoring, but who never looks at it.

 

My inverter displays several things that I sometimes look at when I'm in the garage. Here's a picture. The graph shows how much energy the array generates versus time of day. The top numerical display is the current array power in kW. The second line is the day's output so far, in kWh. The third line is the total energy generated since the array was installed, in MWh (1MWh equals 1000 kWh).

 

Every day I get an email with the previous day's performance. If I'm not in Mesquite, I can tell a lot about Mesquite weather by the graph of power versus time of day.

 

The third monitor capability is on a website. I can look at graphs of performance for any day, for daily performance over any month, and for monthly performance for a year. I rarely look at this, but it's nice to have when someone asks how well the array performs.

 

If you have any questions about solar arrays, I'd be glad to chat.

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