San Jose conserves power during heat wave

August 24, 2010 7:57:00 PM PDT
The state's power supplies are ample to meet demand as the Bay Area and most other parts of California are coping with temperatures nearing or surpassing the 100 degree mark. The California Independent Service Operator (Cal ISO) has not requested consumers or businesses to take any conservation measures. However, some major power users are taking pro-active measures to curtail electric use.

Credit can go to places like San Jose City Hall where the heat wave triggered power saving. Two-thirds of the light fixtures were turned off in the 18-story complex and room temperatures were raised.

"A few minutes a day that may be a bit more uncomfortable for the inhabitants of the building, people who work here, but the end savings can be, depending on the day, up to 20 percent of our electrical use for that particular time period," deputy director of general services Matt Morley said.

What power City Hall does not use is then available to others.

Conservation also creates a significant savings. The City Hall electric bill runs almost $1 million per year. Computer based monitoring and other steps, like turning off the heat overnight, have saved about $100,000.

"We're able to shut those systems down and actually overcool the building at night and take advantage of that into the next day and use that for energy savings right off the bat," Morley said.

It was 93 degrees outside at noontime Tuesday, but City Hall was using only 5 percent of the capacity of one chiller to cool the building. Two other chillers were off.

Neighboring Santa Clara operates its own utility, Silicon Valley Power. It did not call for cutbacks either, pointing at late spring snowfall in the Sierra. The runoff is used to produce hydroelectric power.

"Because there's been a relatively moderate summer, a lot of that snowfall that happened in May, which created a lot of water after three years of drought, a lot of that water is still available for use this late in the season," Silicon Valley Power spokesperson Larry Owens said.

California continues to grow in population, but per capita power use has been flat for the past 20 years.

The economy has joined conservation as contributing factors. The NUMMI plant shut down earlier this year, and empty store fronts dot Silicon Valley.


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