Summer is officially upon us, and many of you are making last minute vacation plans while some are packing your cars for that much needed rest and relaxation. You can be assured that Duke Energy’s nuclear plants also have prepared for the summer months to ensure that customers continue to receive reliable electricity when they need it the most, as the temperatures rise.
Summer heat brings with it an increase in electricity consumption, as air conditions, fans, and other energy-needy appliances kick into overdrive. While we often take for granted the electricity to meet those needs, the climate control it provides can be a lifesaver in dangerously hot times.
With so many needs stressing the electrical grid during the summer, it’s more important than ever that we can turn to safe, reliable, predictable power generation. Nuclear energy meets that need, providing outstanding reliability.
One of the key metrics in the power industry is the ability to provide consistent power output at high levels. This is measured through a plant’s capacity factor performance, which is a comparison between the maximum potential power generation and what is actually produced. There are a wide variety of factors influencing capacity, such as a plant needing to shut down for refueling or maintenance. As an industry, nuclear has alway excelled at capacity factor. It outperforms all other forms of generation in capacity, particularly during the summer.
There are a number of elements that bolster nuclear’s performance. Unlike other green energies, which depend on variable sources, such as sunlight or wind, the fuel for nuclear energy is very consistent. Once the fission process begins, nuclear stations generally operate at or near 100 percent. Stations typically only intentionally shift power down for refueling or maintenance.
To avoid shutting down during times of peak need, nuclear stations work hard to schedule refueling and maintenance outages during off-peak times, such as fall and spring. In addition to prudent scheduling, plants are becoming more and more efficient at completing work during outages to return the plan to 100 percent. Years of planning go into each refueling and maintenance outage, as planners produce a complex work schedule that maximizes the available resources on-site. This meticulous approach has shortened the average length of a refueling outage by 50 percent. This means when nuclear plants shut down, they are quickly back online and operating at maximum capacity.
Customers will see the benefits of the nuclear industry’s hot weather preparations when it comes to the reliability of their electricity during the months when the company sees some of its highest demand. Customers can also help ensure reliability by following a few energy saving tips such as, raising your air conditioning thermostat by just 2 degrees. This not only helps the power system, it can also reduce cooling costs by as much as 5 percent. For more information on energy saving tips click here.