A $22 million electric grid control center operated by Midcontinent Independent Systems Operator (MISO) officially turned the switch at midnight Monday to become the company’s hub for delivering electricity to Arkansas, Mississippi, Louisiana, and Texas.
Todd Hillman, the vice president of MISO’s southern operations said transferring control from its Indiana headquarters to Little Rock signals a growing energy demand in the region.
“It’s roughly a third of the MISO footprint. With the integration of the South we’ve got 15 states stretching all the way from Manitoba, Canada to the Gulf of Mexico,” said Hillman.
He characterized the function of the command center as managing “the generation and dispatch of that generation through a market system that trades ahead on a daily base and manage it in real time.”
The newly operational site in west Little Rock employs about 40 employees with a few more still inbound.
“They’re just transitioning down from the Indiana facility to the Little Rock facility. We will have 50, it’s just a matter of getting them here physically. They are hired, they are staffed.”
Hillman said the company does have a number of native Arkansans in its employ that have been training in the Indiana facility that formerly handled energy distribution for the southern end of MISO’s energy grid.
Hillman said geography and workforce quality were key reasons for choosing Little Rock as the new command point for its southern operations.
“Number one we looked at location. If we had housed something in Louisiana…we are as of today in the official hurricane season,” said Hillman. “We wanted to be at a place that has a lot of universities, a lot of access to good talent.”
While a small number of staff is yet to arrive in Arkansas he said the transition of both personnel and electrons went smoothly late Sunday night and early Monday morning.
“Nothing unexpected. The systems cut over. We also did a model of the system at the same time that the systems cutover. So we were doing two things at once and both went over remarkably well,” said Hillman.
“To put that in perspective, imagine if you will 300,000 data points that we check along the grid every 60 seconds. We also run about 11,500 what-if scenarios about every four minutes.”
Arkansas's dispatch of power either runs through MISO or another power player with a hub in Little Rock, Southwest Power Pool.