The Pierre area dodged a bullet on Wednesday after warnings of a possible blackout passed with nobody losing power as parts of the nation struggled through a third day without electricity.
Southwest Power Pool, which oversees the bulk electric grid and wholesale power market in 14 states, said Tuesday that spiking demand driven by extreme weather forced controlled blackouts for the first time in its history.
Parts of Southeastern South Dakota saw some of those blackouts Tuesday, but they never reached Pierre.
On Wednesday afternoon, SPP announced it had gone back to a Level 1 alert, meaning it had electricity “sufficient to meet demand.”
Brad Palmer, utilities director for Pierre, said it had been a week unlike any in his 12 years on the job.
“It’s the first time we’ve ever had anything like this,” he said of the possibility for outages.
He said Pierre’s status as the state capital may have played in its favor.
“You probably don’t want to be known for shutting off power to the capital,” he said.
The Pierre area is served by two power suppliers — the Western Area Power Administration and the Missouri River Energy Services.
WAPA generates about 60 percent of the area’s energy from hydroelectric dams along the Missouri River. The not-for-profit MRES produces the other 40 percent for 61 municipal utilities in four states.
MRES resorted to 90-minute rolling blackouts Monday in some areas but only Winner, about 75 miles away, was affected.
“The risk is not completely over because we don’t have a lot of wind generation in the area,” MRES spokeswoman Joni Livingston said Wednesday. “We’re still at risk… but there is a light at the end of the tunnel.”
She said MRES is “running all the resources possible in the region. We still are concerned that demands might exceed the generation.”
That was a signal to continue conservation through the week.
Fort Pierre has its own generation station and emergency generator, “so as a city we don’t have any blackouts,” said Rick Hahn, director of public works.