Silicon Valley helps conserve power

July 9, 2008 7:41:35 PM PDT
All this heat is putting a big strain on the power grid, including in the South Bay.

The city of Santa Clara hit an all-time power demand record on Tuesday, and Silicon Valley Power is asking customers there to conserve.

With heat waves you can literally see, Silicon Valley Power is setting records. The utility serves the entire city of Santa Clara.

On average, one megawatt of electricity serves 750 homes. The previous record for energy use in Santa Clara was set during the July heat wave in 2006 with 486 megawatts.

On Tuesday, Silicon Valley Power set a new record with a demand of 492 megawatts.

"It's about as high as it was during the energy crisis. Fortunately since that time there have been many layers of reactions and preventive measures put in place," said Larry Owens from Silicon Valley Power.

Silicon Valley Power has its own 24-hour operation to monitor supply, demand and power prices. Today's lower than expected temperatures made for a manageable balance.

"We're doing good, you know. Right now we have enough energy available to meet our needs," said power system scheduler Paulo Apolinario.

If necessary, Silicon Valley Power has 14 of its largest customers like Applied Materials and Intel on a pre-set plan to conserve energy.

Even on Tuesday, that program wasn't activated. But at Juniper Networks in Sunnyvale, power is being reduced. It's one of 3,100 big PG&E customers signed up for a demand response program.

Each participant has an energy orb which turns red when energy conservation is needed. Today is one of those days.

"So what that means for us is that we are turning off hallway lighting, we turn off lobby lighting, we're actually increasing the temperature in the air conditioning unit so that temperatures heat up just slightly two or three degrees during the course of the day," said Juniper Networks Faculty Manager Justina Leung.

Juniper is able to monitor its load reduction in real time. On Wednesday, it shaved about seven percent off its normal energy use.

Stella Harris isn't sure how much she and her husband are conserving but this is where everyday efforts can add up on a big scale.

"Our lights are off quite a bit, we don't have too many lights on and keep the drapes closed and not use too much electricity," said Harris.

It is those measures during peak hours that will not only save money but help the state's power grid.


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