Sunday, August 8, 2010

Reducing the need for new power plants

Many people don’t know that Progress Energy (the electric power supplier for most people in eastern North Carolina) has a program that can save some money and help prevent the need for new power plants.

The demand for electricity varies during the day. Particularly during the summer, the electric power demand is at its maximum during the afternoon, and less during the night. Power companies such a Progress run their most efficient plants (those that use the least fuel) 24 hours per day. But the least efficient plants are only run during times of high demand (afternoons).

Sometimes the power company cannot meet its peak demand simply by putting additional plants on line. One way of dealing with this situation is “load shedding”, that is, reducing the load when necessary.

Progress Energy has a program to “cycle” air conditioners, turning them off for 15 minutes when there is insufficient generating capability. In this program, a box is placed on the side of central air conditioner compressor units (the outside part). When a reduced load is needed, a signal from a satellite is received by the box, turning the air conditioner off. No phone line connection or internet connection is needed.

The air conditioner interruption will only take place during the week (Monday – Friday, excepting holidays) and between 1pm and 4pm. Most people will not notice any change in temperature.