Heat and humidity

With this year’s Renewable Energy and Sustainable Lifestyle Fair coming August 19th and 20th, we are always concerned about what the weather conditions will be like during the summer event. Attendance is hurt by extreme storms con or intense heat and humidity.

With covered roofs for workshops and displays rain per se is not a major problem. With multiple fans in the buildings even heat waves are tolerable. Such weather concerns are short term conditions in contrast to long term impacts of climate change.

During heat waves, demand for air conditioning can rise to a peak that can exceed the grid’s ability to deliver power leading to a temporary collapse of service. With smart meters now widely deployed throughout ComEd’s service territory the utility has increased its ability to manage the electrical load including times of peak demand. In a heat wave where automated demand response devices are installed, the utility can send a signal to turn off an air conditioner unit for 15 minutes and back on allowing a building’s temperature to rise by a degree or two.

If the load reduction is spread across a large number of homes it amounts to a massive reduction in demand for electrical service can be quickly implemented. While customers will experience a degree or two higher temperatures in their buildings, a massive blackout across the entire region can be avoided.

Demand response devices can also shift the time at which appliances are used. Rather than turning on electric driers at 2 p.m. on a hot day they could be set to operate at a later time to reduce peak load.

With commercial and industrial customers, agreements can be made for similar shifts in demand with prior notification. All of these shifts can occur far more quickly than bringing another electrical generating facility into service.

With the promise of large-scale energy storage facilities, additional supplies could be provided without any major disruption in energy services for several hours.

Beyond short term solutions to meeting peak demand are the benefits from upgrading efficiency across the full spectrum of energy services. Improved insulation in homes and buildings, more energy efficient appliances, switching to hybrid or electric transportation sources offer years of reduced energy consumption and financial savings.

The need to address climate change will require an ongoing transition to cleaner sources of energy such as solar and wind as well as continuous progress in energy efficiency. In Illinois over the next decades we can expect increases in days of stagnant air masses, extreme heat, and both increased days of drought and increased days of flooding and more intense storms.

For individuals these challenges also require changes in personal behavior to protect personal health by avoiding heat stress by limiting physical activity on hot, humid days and drinking enough water to replace what is lost during such times. Particularly vulnerable are people 65 and older, children 5 and under and others with health conditions which increase their vulnerability to hot, humid weather.

Plan to attend this year’s Renewable Energy and Sustainable Lifestyle Fair and discover additional ideas on how to reduce energy use, secure clean energy supplies and enjoy a comfortable lifestyle while lowering energy bills.

The major sponsor of the Fair is the Illinois Clean Energy Community Foundation. We appreciate the support of The Rock River Times.

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