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Title: Y2K Gear Will Aid IPL This Summer

Diesel Generators That Were All the Rage at New Year's Will Help Utility Meet Heavy Demand in Hottest Months.


Last updated 11:55 PM, EST, Wednesday, April 19, 2000

Indianapolis Power & Light Co. plans to use self-contained diesel generators to help meet heavy demand for electricity this summer.

Manufacturers marketed the generators last year to companies concerned that Y2K-related computer problems would knock out power.

With another hot, dry summer expected, Jeff Willman, IPL's director of business development, figures the utility can put some of the generators to good use.

Willman said the idea came to him in early January during a meeting with an industrial customer.

Workers nearby were preparing to haul away two of the generators -- which look like large truck trailers.

"We started to study how we would use them and how they could fit into our mix," Willman said.

Stifling heat waves the past two summers strained the ability of IPL and other Midwest and East Coast utilities to meet the power demands of their customers.

Indianapolis-based IPALCO Enterprises, parent of IPL, is spending an undisclosed amount to lease the 85 units, which have total electric generating capacity of 70 megawatts, executives said at IPALCO's annual meeting Wednesday.

"These portable diesel generators are highly cost-effective because we'll only use them during extreme heat and humidity conditions," IPL President Ramon L. Humke said.

"They will all be removed in September, but we are very pleased to have them available for use this summer."

The diesel generators are just part of the utility's strategy to cope with expected summer heat waves.

Construction of a new IPL gas-fired peaking plant on Georgetown Road is scheduled for completion by June. That plant will add 80 megawatts to IPL's capacity of about 3,000 megawatts during periods of high demand.

In addition, the company will buy power on the wholesale market and work with industrial clients to reduce electricity usage during times of peak demand. It will even buy power from customers that generate their own electricity, such as Rolls-Royce Allison.

"The more generation that we have for peaking capacity nearby our customers, the better it is," IPALCO Chairman John R. Hodowal said, because it helps support the utility's transmission system.

After straining to meet demand the past two summers, Indiana utilities and outside energy companies launched programs to build so-called merchant peakers.

But those plants are coming under increasing fire from civic activists and environmental groups.

Last month the Indiana Utility Regulatory Commission ordered Cinergy Corp. and Duke Energy Corp. to halt construction of their $68 million, 132-megawatt CinCap VII plant near Cadiz and New Castle in Henry County.

Duke withdrew its permit application to build a 640-megawatt plant in Delaware County near Desoto. And LSP-Columbus Energy withdrew its plan to build an 825-megawatt plant near Columbus, in Bartholomew County.

IPL hasn't been drawn into those public-relations nightmares. But its customers might feel the impact if, because that additional power is not available, the supply of electricity falls short of demand.

Overworked systems, equipment failure or lightning strikes during thunderstorms could cause voltage fluctuations resulting in cascading outages throughout the system.

While IPL takes pride in its record of providing reliable service, and has "taken all prudent steps" to ensure power remains on, Hodowal said, it can't guarantee the summer will pass with no power outages.


-- (, April 20, 2000

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