How heat affects the electric system

The first extended heat wave cooked the OPPD service territory with heat indices working their way well past 100 degrees. Oppressive heat and humidity means air conditioners are cranked up. Such weather is tough on electric equipment.

Equipment like transformers can break down in the heat, just like people.

“Transformers can get overheated with the extra use,” said Aaron Smith, Director of Operations. “The oil that insulates a transformer and cools it also gets overheated and can fail. The heat and humidity can cause breakdowns.”

OPPD takes added steps to help ensure the system works when it’s needed most. The utility works to strategically place new electric infrastructure in the right places based on usage history and projections of future usage to make sure circuits don’t get overloaded.

In order to prevent more strain than necessary on hot days, OPPD crews postpone regular maintenance work that involves shifting electric loads around, posing added strain in other areas of the system.

When a heat wave settles into the area, OPPD holds extra crews over into the evening, including “stores” employees who ensure replacement equipment is on-hand if needed.

“We do that so we can provide a quicker response and get the power on faster, we don’t want our customers to suffer long in the heat,” Smith said.

OPPD crews also take extra precautions in the summer making sure trucks are equipped with extra water and training employees to watch for signs of heat exhaustion.

Jason Kuiper

About Jason Kuiper

Jason Kuiper joined OPPD as a communications specialist in 2015. He formerly worked as a staff writer and reporter at the Omaha World-Herald.

Jodi Baker

About Jodi Baker

Jodi Baker writes stories and shoots videos for The Wire. Jodi was a television news reporter before she came to work for OPPD as a media specialist in 2013. She's married with two children (a boy and a girl), who keep her and her husband, Dave, hopping. Busy and blessed.