Wednesday, April 25, 2018

A look back at the polar vortex

Remember back when TV weather forecasters didn't have to make up names for every storm or cold spell? Back when weather was a little less dramatic? Before the days of the Siberian Express, the Alberta Clipper or Superstorm Sandy?

Back in January, we in the Ohio Valley had the polar vortex. Why this cold snap needed a name when others that were colder or lasted longer didn't I'll never know. Anyway, one thing about this cold snap was that coal-fired power plants were put into service to meet the increased demand for electricity that comes with extreme weather (another TV term; forgive me).

The Energy Information Administration has released preliminary numbers for electric power generation in January. Here are how power plants along the Ohio River responded to the increased demand.

Power generation and the polar vortex
Largest coal-fired power plantsNet generation, Jan. 2017 (megawatt hours)Net generation, Jan. 2018 (megawatt hours)Coal consumed, Jan. 2017 (tons)Coal consumed, Jan. 2018 (tons)
Mill Creek874,367862,041399,771396,931
Trimble County787,080821,258351,653356,791
FE W.H. Sammis549,821803,895250,474353,990
FE Pleasants879,870732,709355,141305,281
H.L. Spurlock687,325686,144393,250323,165
J.M. Stuart323,370646,514149,068291,677
Kyger Creek374,891606,532158,405257,259
Miami Fort547,448510,216225,196223,274
W.H. Zimmer693,285446,402275,379189,479
FE Bruce Mansfield744,737309,414309,414151,848
Coal total12,620,50612,782,5175,686,7245,862,670
Largest gas-fired power plantsNet generation, Jan. 2017 (megawatt hours)Net generation, Jan. 2018 (megawatt hours)Gas consumed, Jan. 2017 (Mcf)Gas consumed, Jan. 2018 (Mcf)
Hanging Rock584,087807,6634,724,1415,590,063
Trimble County65,623149,154752,9381,581,539
Nuclear power plantNet generation, Jan. 2017 (megawatt hours)Net generation, Jan. 2018 (megawatt hours)
Beaver Valley1,394,3001,381,756
Source: U.S. Energy Information Administration

Some coal-fired plants produced more power than they did in January 2017 while some produced less. You can look at the list and speculate about the reasons — an individual plant's efficiency; whether it had been running all-out before and there was little room for added output; operations affected by a planned retirement; etc. etc. etc. — but the numbers show the cold snap did not lead to an increase in the output of the plants as a group.

The two largest gas-fired plants, though, did pretty well.

Next up: A few more coal-related items.

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