Offutt reduces power grid load to help community during frigid temps

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  • 55th Wing Public Affairs

With the recent onslaught of frigid temperatures pushing commercial power grids to their brink nationally, Team Offutt reduced their power requirement by six megawatts to help ease the strain locally.

The reduction was possible by utilizing emergency power plants and generators at multiple facilities on base including U.S. Strategic Command’s new command and control facility.

“Six megawatts will power about 3,900 average sized homes,” said Gary Chesley, 55th Civil Engineer Squadron director. “So, we essentially removed the load of 3,900 homes from the over-stressed commercial grid.”

The opportunity to provide this support to the Omaha Public Power District was possible in part due to the long-term relationship Offutt has with them.

“We have a very collaborative and supportive relationship with the OPPD,” said Doug Wendt, 55th CES Facility Systems superintendent. “That established relationship was extremely helpful during our initial planning and strategy meetings.”

Prior to reducing the base’s power requirement from the OPPD grid, four teams from across the 55th CES performed status checks on all base power plants and generators to ensure they were in operational ready status. They also ensured the fuel storage supply and its delivery was adequate while also verifying key critical circuit breakers control and operational status.

“Fuel storage and resupply delivery are crucial to sustain critical missions during these type of events,” Wendt said.

Providing that key fuel support for the duration was the 55th Logistics Readiness Squadron. However, it was not without its share of opportunities to test their readiness and fuels redundancy.

“Normally we would refuel (one of the buildings) by direct pipeline, but (we lost) that capability and the temporary system we had in place was removed so we now have to fill their tank by a 1,200 gallon C-300 fuel truck,” said Master Sgt. Simmons, 55th LRS Fuels Management Flight superintendent.

Further complicating the process was an inoperable fuel truck that went down just hours before it was to refuel one facility. In response, LRS had to transition another vehicle from the Lincoln Airport where they had been supporting operations there.

“Equipped with the latest in extreme cold weather gear designed for these situations, we had two individuals working 16 plus hours in -20 degree weather making sure there was no interruption to fuel supply,” Simmons said. “We also ensured there was no interruption to operations in Lincoln.

“This is a perfect example of the work ethic of our career field, making sure the mission proceeds at personal sacrifice,” he added.

Overall, base facilities utilized emergency power plants and generators for nearly 75 straight hours, easing the overall power requirement on OPPD.

While this support may seem unique, it is Air Force policy to test emergency power plants and generators on a regular basis and has happened recently.

“Tests are done monthly,” Wendt said. “And the same, or very similar, actions were performed during the 2017 tornado and 2019 flood.”

Even though the 55th CES and 55th LRS led the bulk of this effort, Wendt said it was a true Team Offutt effort that ensured its success.

“I learned once again that our teams and individuals are highly skilled, motivated, mission focused and dedicated,” he said. “From the youngest Airmen in the field pumping fuel to senior military and civilian leaders and many in between.”