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Con Ed imposes brownout in northwest Brooklyn due heat

NEW YORK (Reuters) - Consolidated Edison Inc. urged customers to conserve electricity and implemented a voltage reduction, or brownout, in northwest Brooklyn, New York, on Wednesday as heavy demand due to excessive heat and humidity strained the power system.

A woman takes shelter under an umbrella as she sits on a boardwalk bench on Coney Island in the Brooklyn Section of New York City, August 3, 2007. Consolidated Edison Inc. implemented a voltage reduction or brownout in northwest Brooklyn, New York, on Wednesday as heavy demand due to excessive heat and humidity strained the power system. REUTERS/Mike Segar

None of Con Edison’s customers lost power due to the 5 percent voltage reduction, which the company used to relieve the pressure on the system caused by the loss of three feeder cables or power lines in the area.

In fact, most customers would not even notice the reduction since most electric motors and other appliances are designed to tolerate a voltage variation of plus or minus 10 percent.

A volt is a unit of electrical pressure that pushes electrons along a conductor. This is similar to the pressure that pushes water through a pipe.

The first cable went out at about midnight, the second at about 6 a.m. and the third at about 11 a.m.

In a release, the company urged the estimated 87,000 affected customers in Greenpoint, Williamsburg, Clinton Hill and Bedford Stuyvesant west of Throop Avenue to stop using nonessential electrical appliances, especially air conditioners, until workers repair the cables.

In addition to traditional methods of asking customers to conserve electricity, Con Edison was also calling customers with a recorded message asking them to reduce power usage.

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Meteorologists forecast temperatures in New York would reach the 90s Fahrenheit, with the humidity making it feel like more than 100 degrees.


So far, the loss of the feeder cables has not left any customers in the dark, but the company had about 700 customers without power Wednesday afternoon scattered across its service territory. Con Edison serves more than 3 million customers in New York City and Westchester County.

If Con Edison had implemented a much bigger voltage reduction of 8 percent, the spokesman said customers would likely notice the cutback. While Con Edison classifies a brownout as a voltage reduction of 8 percent or more, electricity traders consider a brownout to be any kind of voltage reduction.

Con Edison was not the only company to impose a voltage reduction on Wednesday. Pepco, of Washington, DC, also used a 5 percent voltage reduction to help prevent more serious power supply and delivery problems.

Con Edison said the demand for power Wednesday was more than 12,300 megawatts but would not reach the system’s all-time peak of 13,141 MW set on August 2, 2006. One megawatt powers about 800 homes in New York.

Forecasters predicted the heat would break on Thursday, when temperatures in the Big Apple will top out in the mid 80s.

Con Edison owns and operates power plants, markets energy commodities, and transmits and distributes electricity, natural gas and steam to more than 3.2 million customers in New York, New Jersey and Pennsylvania.