Responsible Power Use
Every day, thousands of Customers rely on Southwest to carry out our Purpose: connecting People to what’s important in their lives through friendly, reliable, and low-cost air travel. While our Employees are known for their friendliness and Hospitality, Reliability and affordability usually depend on actions that occur behind the scenes, away from the public eye—such as our energy load-shedding program at our Headquarters in Dallas.
Energy Usage and the Local Grid
During the summer, energy consumption in the Dallas area spikes when temperatures rise. Spikes in energy use can max out the region’s power grid, leading to greater risk of brownouts or service disruptions. And companies that use large amounts of power during peak times often pay much more for energy year-round.
Through our energy load-shedding program, we’ve implemented a system that benefits the planet, the local power grid, and Southwest by reducing our energy consumption. Using a brand-new network of connected energy meters and smart controls, we are able to automatically turn down equipment in our buildings that consumes large amounts of energy when our system senses a usage spike on the grid.
“Most people understand energy use in terms of a house or an apartment complex, where you can reduce energy use by turning off a light or two,” explains Matt Lowe, Southwest’s Corporate Facilities Building Manager. “When you’re talking about a facility with over 1.75 million square feet, things get a little bit more complicated. You have to know exactly which equipment you can turn off, and for how long.”
The program focuses on equipment like rooftop chillers and pumps that draw large amounts of energy for air cooling. “We can hit one button and all of that equipment automatically resets itself up to higher temperatures to consume less energy,” says Matt. “We can’t just leave the power off, because at some point the work environment would get pretty uncomfortable. But we can get by for two or three hours, until peak demand decreases.”
Connected to Purpose
Our load-shedding program has helped the Dallas area’s power grid, which lowers Southwest’s exposure to disrupted energy service. “We need to make sure that energy supply doesn’t affect our operation,” says Matt.
But he is quick to point out that Southwest’s investment in load-shedding also helps the Company’s bottom line. “Another great thing about this program is that it will eventually pay for itself. We’re using less power, so we’re also saving money.” In the first year of load-shedding, Southwest reduced energy expenditures by more than $163,000, and in years ahead, systems are expected to be fine-tuned and optimized.
“And these are the kind of benefits that trickle down to the Customer. Load-shedding is like a behind-the-scenes look at how our Company is able to strive for operations that are reliable and that we are working to maintain a low-cost advantage in the airline industry.”
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