City engine

Bloomfield electrical workers Lane Fenter and Kolt Hamburg are shown in the city’s engine room on West Franklin Street last week. Bloomfield was able to fire up its refurbished generators and produce electricity for the city early last week as power demand exceeded supply. By doing so, the city helped SIEC and its suppliers avert rolling blackouts over a multi-state area.

“Power, that’s what we do!” said Bloomfield’s DPW Richard Wilcox last week.

And because the City of Bloomfield is capable of generating its own power, local residents were able to avoid electrical outages (or rolling blackouts) and stay warm during last Tuesday and Wednesday’s sub-zero temperatures.

Wilcox said the generators are an asset for the city. Last year they were refurbished and certified to produce electricity once again after being out of commission for several years. “They are for the simple purpose of avoiding power outages during times such as last week,” he said.

“Bloomfield exceeded any kind of previous peaks for energy usage in the winter months during last week’s extremely cold temperatures,” Wilcox commented.

“This was a large event for an extended period of time, and there were big demands on the generating plants that supply us and SIEC. Having our own generating facility allowed us to take care of the city and allowed SIEC and NEMO to divert their power elsewhere.”

Bloomfield typically receives its power through a three-part system, Wilcox explained. Associated Electric generates the power; Northeast Missouri (NEMO) transports the power and delivers it to Southern Iowa Electric Cooperative (SIEC); and SIEC delivers it to homeowners and businesses in parts of Davis, Van Buren, Appanoose and Wapello Counties.

Officials with this three-part system, which extends from Oklahoma to Iowa, realized demand could exceed supply last week. They devised a plan to distribute power equitably by conducting rolling blackouts, or what the companies call controlled service interruptions. During rolling blackouts, a designated group of users would be without power for 45 minutes, then another group and so on.

SIEC Manager Greg Proctor contacted Wilcox and asked if Bloomfield could generate its own power, thereby allowing SIEC to send power elsewhere and hopefully avoid rolling blackouts.

“We were ready to go, and we did have fuel,” Wilcox said. “This was a position I wanted to be in as a city utility. It was a good fit for the problems that were surfacing.”

Proctor said 51 co-ops in the Associated Electric region were asked to conserve energy.

“We’re grateful that Bloomfield and Mt. Pleasant had generation capabilities and were willing to help us out,” Proctor said. “SIEC was able to reduce demand by six megawatts at one point in time, and four of those megawatts could be attributed to Bloomfield.”

“I’m glad we have the assets we have and can share them with Southern Iowa Electric,” Wilcox said.

Proctor said on Feb. 16, the co-ops set an all-time usage high of 5,600 megawatts. The previous peak was on Jan. 17, 2018, when 5,100 megawatts were used.

“That number communicates society is using more energy all the time, even though energy is being used more efficiently,” Proctor said.

“Hopefully, this is a teachable moment for folks; this is a societal issue.”