We want to provide you some insight into the efforts taken to avoid power interruptions here at Princeton Public Utilities during the 2019 Polar Vortex. The cold weather throughout the Midwest in January of 2019 placed a strain on portions of the electrical grid. Many generators that use natural gas to produce electricity were unable to operate due to natural gas curtailments because of the high demand for natural gas for heating. To fill the shortage left by unavailable natural gas units, generating units that operate on diesel fuel, such as the units we have at the Princeton power plant, were called into action.
Early Wednesday morning of January 30th, Southern Minnesota Municipal Power Agency (SMMPA) under the direction of the electric grid operator, the Midcontinent Independent System Operator (MISO), requested us to start the generating units in our power plant. Throughout Wednesday and over the night into Thursday, January 31st, MISO managed through a series of low-level emergency operations that extended the time necessary to operate our plant. Thursday morning our generating units were cleared to shut down after about 30 hours of continuous operation. Princeton wasn’t alone in the operation of our plant. The entire SMMPA fleet of municipal power plants was on-line for similar durations, in towns just like ours throughout the state, to help support the overall electrical grid.
Events like these highlight the value municipal utilities and our local power plant provide to ensure both local reliability and the reliability of the larger electrical grid.