Heat wave could set all-time record for electricity demand

This week's heat wave could set an all-time record for electricity demand, and burden the electrical infrastructure, as people set air conditioners on full blast.

The electrical grid will likely have capacity for this heat wave, but the infrastructure is becoming more vulnerable because of its age, said Massoud Amin, director of the Technological Leadership Institute at the University of Minnesota.

"This grid is the marvel of 20th century engineering, however it's getting really overburdened," Amin said. "It is falling behind in terms of investment in infrastructure and it's aging. The average age of components is 40 to 60 years."

There's a small possibility that some of aging equipment could fail and lead to larger problems due to the heat, Amin said. But most electrical networks in the country now incorporate smart grid technologies to avoid broader outages when demand peaks.

"It has intelligence to constantly look for trouble areas, potential problem areas, caused by storms, catastrophic events, human error or even sabotage," Amin said.

Power companies can also purchase power from other areas of the country that aren't experiencing the same heat levels, said Midcontinent Independent System Operator's Mike McMullen.

The National Weather Service is expected the heat wave to spread east across the region on Wednesday, with a likely heat index of 100 to 110 degrees. The agency recommends that people working outside stay hydrated and seek relief in air conditions. The excessive heat warning will remain in place for much of the state until Friday evening.

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