Causes of outages during hot weather
Power outages are more common in hot weather months than at other times of the year. During the summer, two events affect El Paso Electric’s electrical system: storms and overloaded electrical equipment caused by an increased demand for power.
Power demand during hot weather can overload electrical equipment causing power outages. Outages occur when circuit breakers or other protective equipment shut off the flow of power in order to prevent further damage to the electrical system.
Planning for outages during hot weather
Because EPE has been serving the west Texas/southern New Mexico region for more than 100 years, we’ve developed strategies that help us minimize the effects of outages that occur during the hot weather months for our customers.
During hot weather months, EPE customers naturally increase their use of air conditioners which run for longer periods as the heat continues into the late afternoon and evening hours. In recent years, more EPE customers have also switched to refrigerated-air units which use more energy compared to the evaporative cooling units that they replace.
The additional demand for power may overload electric lines, transformers and other equipment used to deliver electricity. Sustained electric demand during hot weather may not allow transformers time to cool properly overnight, causing them to overheat and damage the electrical equipment. Outages related to overloaded transformers don’t affect the majority of EPE’s customers. They generally affect from 15 to 20 customers at one time. Once EPE identifies the problem, EPE’s crews replace the damaged equipment with equipment that can handle bigger loads.
Thunderstorms are the number one cause of customer outages on EPE’s electric system. More accurately, it is the lightning and wind bursts that accompany a thunderstorm that usually cause the outages. The energy of a lightning strike is difficult to overcome, but EPE has deployed lightning arrestors and extensive grounding on system equipment to help prevent these outages as much as possible. EPE also has an aggressive tree trimming and line clearing program to help reduce tree/wind-caused outages. EPE continually monitors the weather for approaching thunderstorms and calls additional crews into service, in advance, to help respond quickly to outages when the storm hits our system.