Denton Energy Center making electricity

The Denton Energy Center, shown Monday, produces energy for Denton Municipal Electric. So far this month, the new power plant has accumulated 810 cumulative hours for all 12 engines and has produced 13,947.3 megawatt-hours.

Denton Municipal Electric customers pushed power demand to a record high Wednesday and then smashed that demand Thursday when temperatures reached 111 degrees.

The running of air conditioners and all things meant to keep a body cool drove demand to 352 megawatts late Wednesday afternoon, an all-time high for DME. On Thursday, demand soared to 369 megawatts about 5:30 p.m., according to city spokeswoman Jessica Rogers.

Demand usually drops on the weekend, but the record-high temperatures drove a new weekend high demand of 340 megawatts. One megawatt is about enough electricity to power about 200 homes running air conditioners during hot weather, according to the Electric Reliability Council of Texas.

The heat also was a factor in two of four small power outages over the weekend, Rogers said.

The demand, locally and statewide, sent DME to the grid to buy and sell electricity, although none of that market variability is headed to individual DME bills.

“Our customers see a stable rate,” Rogers said.

In other words, increased usage can and will drive up a monthly electric bill, but not the variable cost of Texas electricity.

The city has published electric conservation tips on its website and in newsletters — including some unusual ideas, like moving the thermostat away from heat and light sources. DME customers also can monitor their usage on a dashboard and use that information to take other conservation steps, Rogers said.

Some of DME’s buying and selling of electricity included run time for both the city’s coal-fired power plant near Bryan and the new natural gas-fired power plant on Denton’s west side.

The Denton Energy Center officially joined the Texas electric marketplace this month. The 12 engines inside the plant have logged a cumulative 810 hours so far in July and produced 13,947.3 megawatt-hours of electricity, Rogers said.

Watt-hours measure the total amount of electricity used over time. For example, a 100-watt incandescent light bulb draws 100 watts to run and consumes 100 watt-hours of electricity if left on for an hour. A megawatt is equal to 1 million watts.

Although prices can vary widely, some speculators have purchased electric futures — essentially betting that electricity will trade at $50 to $75 per megawatt-hour or more on the Texas grid this summer, according to ERCOT data. ERCOT oversees the Texas electric grid and marketplace.

Slight reprieve from the heat

A cool front rolled through the region Monday afternoon, bringing cloud cover and a slight reprieve in the scorching temperatures.

But most, if any, of the rainfall that accompanied the front never made it to the ground. The continuing high temperatures and lack of rain could push the demand for Denton water utilities later this week.

According to Tim Fisher, Denton’s director of water utilities, water demand was up last week, ranging from 33 million to 34 million gallons per day.

Lots of people dragged out the garden hoses on Friday when the peak hit 36.1 million gallons.

Fisher said the city’s record peak day of 37.5 million gallons came in the hot, dry days of the 2011 drought.

“We may exceed that number sometime this week based upon the weather forecast and our recent water use trends,” Fisher said in an email.

The National Weather Service does not expect rain in the region for at least the next five days.

Temperatures will remain hot, but seasonally so, forecasters said.

Meteorologists are calling for daytime highs in the upper 90s to low 100s. Overnight lows will fall to the 70s through Friday.

PEGGY HEINKEL-WOLFE can be reached at 940-566-6881 and via Twitter at @phwolfeDRC.

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