For the past week, there’s been a constant rumble throughout the Hills as hundreds of thousands of bike enthusiasts — maybe more than a million — converged on the small town of Sturgis, South Dakota, for the 75th Annual Sturgis Motorcycle Rally.
The official Rally kicked off Monday, but at Black Hills Power, we’ve been prepping since last year to accommodate what was expected to be the largest event in South Dakota’s history.
These millions of visitors filled every campground, hotel and rented private home within 120 miles of the famed event. Traffic reached gridlock proportions for miles in and around the small community of Sturgis, which is home to less than 7,000 residents the rest of the year.
As of Wednesday, Black Hills Power loads — the amount of energy a building needs — were running about 15 percent higher than the same time last year, and some facilities were loaded more than 25 percent higher.
“Our team has done an excellent job preparing for the 75th Rally,” said Vance Crocker, Black Hills Power vice president of operations. “Staging material and equipment, establishing an incident command structure and arranging police escorts for outages are all part of the final plan to ensure we are prepared to reliably serve a million motorcycle enthusiasts.”
To prepare for the increased load, we worked closely with emergency management agencies and Homeland Security to ensure a safe, reliable supply of electricity. During the past two years, we’ve conducted numerous planning studies, upgraded key facilities and provided redundancy for critical areas. In the months leading up to the Rally, we completed thorough facility inspections. To make sure we didn’t miss anything, we conducted infrared scans of our lines, switches and substations to identify and mitigate weak areas.