Spencer Municipal Utilities (SMU) customers may have noticed Spencer’s jet combustion engine running more than usual. The jet combustion engine is part of SMU’s generation and at times it runs for generation and at times it runs for testing.
SMU is a member of the Southwest Power Pool which is referred to as SPP. SPP is the Regional Transmission Operator (RTO) covering parts of 14 states. They are responsible for making sure there is enough generation to meet electric load on an hourly basis. In addition to that, there are times when transmission congestion or voltage support is required on the system. When SMU does run, the costs as well as a margin are paid to SMU by SPP so SMU customers are not subsidizing the generation directly.
When energy is generated locally, it is consumed locally even though we are being called to run by the Regional Transmission Operator (RTO) covering parts of 14 states.
The jet turbines were installed back in 1969 to provide reliability to the community of Spencer in the event the transmission system that delivers energy to Spencer was not available. Because reliable energy is critical for quality of life, SMU operates the units regularly to ensure they are ready to run if needed. Because the units are available for dispatch, we also receive revenue which helps offset retail rates that our Spencer customers pay.
When SMU is called to run by the RTO, the RTO is paying our costs of operating plus a margin to cover maintenance costs.
SMU realizes the jet turbine is very loud, and we work to provide notice to our immediate neighbors when we’re called to run. SMU has an air permit from the Iowa Department of Natural Resources that permits us to run the jet turbine as well as the standby generators that provide emergency power for the police station and the SMU operations center.