SPOKANE,WA- As a record heatwave slams the Pacific Northwest, Avista has announced temporary rolling blackouts in Spokane to lessen the strain on the electric system, they say.
“As a state and federally regulated utility, Avista is required to reduce electric load on the system when certain system thresholds are met,” Avista said in a statement Monday afternoon, “In certain areas, these thresholds have been met rather quickly, and to meet the requirement, power has been turned off temporarily. In most situations these outages will be about an hour.”
Spokane City Council President Breean Beggs says that Avista has told him that the reason for the blackouts is the combined effect of heat and an increase in electricity running through the system.
“The initial blackouts that you’re seeing in Hillyard and Eagle Ridge and those places is because transformers in neighborhoods are becoming overheated by a combination of the electricity being drawn through them and the exterior heat,” Beggs told KHQ Monday, “Much like a circuit breaker in a house, if it gets too hot it shuts itself down.”
“We’ve never had conditions like this in the history of Spokane on our grid,” he added.
Beggs says that Avista has told the City that if a transformer does shut down, a crew has to go check to see if it is still operational or needs repairs or replacing. The process to check a transformer takes 2-4 hours, and if everything is satisfactory, it can be switched back on.
“If it’s not, then they have to replace it or repair it,” Beggs says, “that takes about 12 to 24 hours.”
Beggs says that Avista’s plan is to implement one hour rolling blackouts in the neighborhoods where they think transformers that could overheat are located, to try and avoid a situation where a transformer is down for an extended period of time.
“We understand the inconvenience of these unplanned outages, particularly without advance notice and the hot temperatures,” Avista said in their statement, “We are working to identify and communicate with those customers who may experience brief outages due to the heat in the future.”
While Beggs could not say he was certain how long the blackouts would last, he did acknowledge that the next two days are expected to see temperatures that would top Monday’s.