Avista makes changes to avoid rolling blackouts during extreme heat

SPOKANE, Wash. – As the weather continues to slowly heat up for the summer, flashbacks of extreme heat come to mind from last year, when thousands of people went without power for hours.

Heather Rosentrater, vice president of energy delivery for Avista, said they implemented the planned, rolling blackouts last year to avoid damage and overloading its equipment. At one point last year, more than 8,000 people were out of power during the triple-digit heatwave.

Avista says it put new procedures in place over the last year, expecting and hoping to avoid any rolling blackouts and outages if more extreme heat comes through.

North Spokane resident Rachelle Arnot remembers those days last year when she lost power at her apartment.

“I was just concerned with the fact that we have no power, how long are we without power and where are we going to go,” she said. “Your mind is racing.”

Avista says it is much more prepared for this summer, or the extreme heat that could come. Rosentrater said it added more people to its planning department to model more scenarios in extreme weather conditions. The company says it also replaced and upgraded its equipment that was strained and caused outages last summer.

“Our neighborhood transformers, we have additional inspections on the cooling fan and the oil recirculating pumps to ensure that they will be up and ready to go if we were to experience another heat event,” Rosenstrater added.

In previous years, Rosentrater said crews would inspect equipment monthly, however now, when they see “high peak events” in the forecast, they’ll go out and do additional inspections.

When planning, Avista says it uses historical information to figure out how to appropriately respond. Now that there is a new peak, where the Inland Northwest saw 100-plus degree weather in June, Rosentrater said they’re adding that into their system to forecast and prepare.

“We’ve actually completed 27 different projects since last summer to apply those learnings from last summer and improve the system,” she said.

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