More power

Published 5:20 pm Tuesday, July 26, 2011

Dominion customers generate record demand

Last week’s heat wave broke more records than just the temperature.

The stretch of scorching temperatures, combined with three-digit heat indexes, produced a new record for electricity demand from Dominion Virginia Power customers.

“We were in the middle of a heat wave, and people just needed electricity to stay cool and safe,” said Karl Neddenien, a Dominion spokesman.

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The record was set on Friday from 3 to 4 p.m. During that hour, Dominion supplied 20,061 megawatts of electricity. One megawatt supplies enough electricity for approximately 250 homes.

The previous record was set on Aug. 8, 2007, under similar circumstances, Neddenien said.

“It was the same kind of thing,” he said. “Several days of consistent high humidity and high temperatures.”

During the 2007 heat wave, electrical demand broke previous records three different times within the week that ended with the record that was finally broken on Friday, he said.

A growing number of customers and increased numbers of appliances in homes also contribute to the rising demand, Neddenien said.

“We continue to add customers to our base,” he said. “At the same time, though the economy remains weak, we know there’s a pending future demand that’s just waiting to happen once the economy recovers.”

That’s why, he said, Virginia Power has invested heavily in recent years in infrastructure that allows the company to generate electricity and deliver it to customers.

“We’re in excellent shape to continue to meet customer demand for electricity,” Neddenien said. “We know there will be more hot weather approaching at the end of this week, and we do not anticipate any problem meeting the demand.”

Dominion offered the following tips to allow customers to stay cool and safe while still conserving energy:

  • Plan activities that require hot water, such as washing dishes or clothes, for early morning or late evening.
  • Avoid using your stove and oven if possible.
  • If you are comfortable, raise your thermostat to 78 degrees in the summer.
  • Turn off unnecessary lights during hot weather.
  • Use ceiling fans and portable floor fans to move the air around in the home. If the home does not have air conditioning, fans are essential for cooling. In homes with air conditioning, fans allow residents to raise the thermostat and save energy without affecting their comfort.
  • Close drapes during the hottest times of the day.
  • Make sure window air conditioners are sized correctly. Ones that are too small will run constantly, but they will not cool the room. Ones that are too large use more energy than necessary.
  • Clean filters in window air-conditioning units and clean or replace filters in central air-conditioning systems. Clogged filters cause air conditioners to use more energy than necessary to keep a home cool.
  • Clear attic vents. If the home has an attic fan, make sure it is functioning properly.