- Associated Press - Thursday, December 25, 2014

ASPEN, Colo. (AP) - Aspen officials want to know why the resort town is wasting so much power during the holidays.

Utilities officials are studying the municipal electric system, which is plagued by a high rate of distribution inefficiency, The Aspen Daily News reported Wednesday (http://bit.ly/1sZnMIB).

When occupancy peaks in Aspen, the city’s municipal electric system can lose as much as 22 percent of the power it’s transmitting due to distribution inefficiencies, which far exceeds the normal rate of 7 or 8 percent.

That’s according to Phil Overeynder, the former head of the utilities department who is now a special projects manager. He said this is atypical - electric distribution systems shouldn’t experience higher distribution losses when power loads peak, but for some reason, Aspen’s does.

The city hopes to find out why, and recently landed two grants that are being used to study the issue.

The grants, for $13,000 each, are from the American Public Power Association, which is a trade group representing municipal utilities, and the Municipal Energy Agency of Nebraska, which supplies much of the city of Aspen’s power.

One potential factor causing the inefficiency, which primarily occurs through heat loss, could be the wild swings of Aspen’s power demands. During the Christmas-New Year’s week or over the Fourth of July, the city can consume up to 14 megawatts of power at any given moment, while the average use is around 6 or 7 megawatts, Overeynder said.

“Most systems don’t have those extremes,” he said.

“The sense is that the whole town is buzzing, and our electric system reflects that.”

Crews will spend much of next week examining transformers in the downtown core. Overeynder said another cause of electric system efficiency loss can be transformers that are out of balance.

New development hooking into existing transformers could also be an issue, he said.

Over the course of the year, Overeynder estimates that as much as 2,300 megawatt hours of power are lost due to system inefficiencies. Dialing back the problem could save as much as $220,000 in purchased power costs, he said.

The study will seek to identify the root causes of the higher distribution losses, and recommend strategies for fixing the problem.

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Information from: Aspen Daily News, http://www.aspendailynews.com

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