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May 31, 2020

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Utility cranks up electricity production to meet demand

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Julia Anderson/The Columbian
Demand for electricity peaked this week because of unusually cold weather in Southwest Washington. Clark Public Utilities' gas-fired plant generates the power to meet demand.
Julia Anderson/The Columbian Demand for electricity peaked this week because of unusually cold weather in Southwest Washington. Clark Public Utilities' gas-fired plant generates the power to meet demand. Photo Gallery

Steam rose Friday morning from Clark Public Utilities’ power plant in west Vancouver as demand for electricity pushed production over capacity this week.

Natural gas-fired turbines at the plant on Lower River Road were producing an average of 258 megawatts of energy per hour. That’s well above capacity of 248 megawatts, said Mick Shutt, Clark Utilities spokesman.

Temperatures in Southwest Washington dipped as low as 12 degrees this week, which pushed up demand for energy. Utility customers set a record for electricity use on Wednesday of 1,115 megawatts — an amount roughly equal to the full capacity of the Bonneville Dam. That’s compared to the previous record of 1,068 megawatts set in December 1998.

The utility had expected much lower electricity use in December due to lower demand from its business customers still recovering from the recession, Shutt said. Electricity use for the month is now 10 percent higher than the utility had forecast.

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