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Keeping the lights on

City officials explain the reliability of local electrical service

As many areas of the United States are experiencing extreme cold and snow, city officials explained why Webster City did not experience the rolling blackouts that occurred in many other Midwest communities in the past week.

Officials said the City of Webster City purchases electric power from Corn Belt Power Cooperative based in Humboldt and are part of the system through Basin Electric based in Bismarck, North Dakota.

In 2015, Corn Belt Power Cooperative joined with Southwest Power Pool which is a Regional Transmission Organization based out of Little Rock, Arkansas. It is a non-profit corporation that oversees and ensures reliable supplies of power, adequate transmission infrastructure and competitive wholesale electricity prices.

On Feb. 12, Corn Belt contacted the city to let officials know they would have to operate the Jet Turbine due to weather conditions, generation issues, lack of wind and high market prices in the SPP footprint.

At approximately 9 a.m., staff from the Webster City Electric Utility started generating power with the Jet Turbine which has been running 24-hours per day since that time. It also burns approximately 2,500 gallons of fuel per hour, city officials said. At full capacity, the Jet Turbine can produce 25 megawatts of electricity. This week the utility has been able to supply all local needs in addition to putting 7 to 10 megawatts of electricity out onto the grid, helping to alleviate some of the electrical loads on the grid.

Keeping the Jet Turbine running requires large amounts of fuel. The city has had 42 semi-trucks delivering 8,000 gallons of fuel each load. The fuel is unloaded into a 500,000-gallon storage tank and from there it flows through underground pipes to a 10,000-gallon tank into a pre-heated fuel building and then into the Jet Turbine.

In order for the Jet Turbine to run effectively, the City of Webster City Electric Utility has two employees that are trained and responsible for the operation, maintenance and safety of running the equipment. Ryan Orton and Derrick Barnes have worked since coming on line Feb. 12, and have split their time so that one person has been on duty at all times. All fuel and labor costs are paid by Corn Belt Power Cooperative.

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