An unprecedented power conservation effort helped prevent widespread power disruptions during unseasonably hot weather Wednesday, the region's electricity grid operator said Thursday.
PJM Interconnection, which oversees electricity transmission grid channels power between utilities throughout West Virginia, 12 other states and Washington, D.C., said its demand response program - which pays customers to curb power use - played a pivotal role in keeping the power grid stable and air conditioners running Wednesday.
The actions were in response to the unseasonably warm weather that settled over the region earlier this week.
While power demand typically spikes in June, July and August as consumers and business power air conditioners, power companies typically operate at full capacity to help meet that demand.
When demand begins to drop off as temperatures go down in September, utility companies begin taking some power plant units and transmission lines offline for maintenance.
The reduced capacity made it more difficult to respond to air conditioning demand when 90-degree temperatures returned to the region this week
On Tuesday, the region's power demand spiked to a peak of 144,370 megawatts, the second-highest level PJM had seen all year, and a new record for demand in September.
That, combined with equipment problems in some areas, forced PJM to cut back an estimated 150 megawatts worth of power through blackouts and brownouts in parts of Indiana, Michigan, Ohio and Pennsylvania.
For perspective, under non-severe weather conditions, the company said 1 megawatt represents the amount of power it would take to power roughly 800 to 1,000 average-sized homes.
When company officials forecast demand would spike Wednesday to an even higher 149,000 megawatts, the company began the largest demand response effort in its history in order to avert even larger blackouts and brownouts.
Charleston Newspapers was one of several West Virginia companies asked Wednesday to cut back on air conditioning and equipment use Wednesday afternoon in order to conserve power.