Waterloo generating power in midst of deep freeze

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Pictured are generators inside Waterloo’s power plant.

Due to an extreme cold blast throughout much of the United States, the availability of electricity is becoming an issue. Waterloo is trying to do its part in an effort to keep this region out of the dark.

On Monday, the City of Waterloo was advised by the Illinois Municipal Electric Agency to begin conserving energy. The city urged its residents to help by lowering thermostats at home by 2 degrees.

The IMEA acts as a cooperative for 32 communities in the state that own and operate their own electric distribution systems.

Another step toward this effort was an IMEA request for all 12 generating cities in the cooperative to produce their own power for the time being as a way of helping out the grid as a whole. In normal consumption times, Waterloo’s electricity comes from power purchased in bulk through IMEA. During peak times, Waterloo generates power at its plant to help offset costs.

“To help with the power grid, we’re generating electric for the grid,” Waterloo Mayor Tom Smith told FOX2 News. “And no rolling blackouts. We’re producing this town’s electric so it can go to some other towns.”

Waterloo Director of Public Works Tim Birk said the city activated five of its generators about 11 a.m. Monday and plans to generate power for at least another 24 hours.

“The price of power right now is extremely high,” Birk said. “We’re trying to reduce costs across the board.”

Waterloo owns other generators at its power plant, but those are currently offline.

“We’re generating 5 megawatts of power and may generate more in the next 24 hours,” Birk said.

On Tuesday, Waterloo utility crews were forced to repair a failed cross arm on a steel pole line north of Mobil On The Run that resulted in a power outage at the north end of town. Birk said power to most of those impacted was restored within a short amount of time, but residents of the Northwinds Subdivision were without power a little longer.

Elsewhere, a major power grid manager that operates in states from North Dakota to Texas has ordered rolling blackouts amid the current deep freeze.

Southwest Power Pool, which is headquartered in Little Rock, Ark., ordered the rolling blackouts Monday, declaring an energy emergency. Extreme weather had already taken out power for millions of homes in Texas, where temperatures hit record lows.

According to the New York Times, the organization manages the electric grid used in all of Oklahoma and Kansas and parts of Texas, Louisiana, Arkansas, Missouri, Iowa, Minnesota, North Dakota, South Dakota, Montana, Nebraska and New Mexico.

The grid operator said it was doing so to prevent further uncontrolled power failures.

Pictured, Waterloo utility crews work in the freezing cold and snow to repair a pole that led to a brief power outage at the north end of town on Tuesday. (Mitch Nolan photo)
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