TVA Employees Get Ready for Year’s First Cold Snap
Mother Nature is expected to bring freezing temperatures, snow and ice to the Tennessee Valley later this week. TVA employees are already gearing up to meet electricity demand.
JANUARY 4, 2017—As the southeastern part of the nation braces for the first dangerous cold spell of the year, there is a quiet hum of activity deep in the basement of TVA’s headquarters in Chattanooga, Tenn., where the utility’s highly trained employees are preparing to ensure there is enough electricity for this weekend’s cold snap.
“We’re projecting a load of over 26,000 MWs (megawatts) this weekend,” says Patrick Walshe, TVA manager of operations at the utilities’ nerve center. “The last time we saw loads this high was on January 19, 2016.”
Employees at TVA’s System Operations Center constantly coordinate generation and transmission assets to meet power demand in the Valley.
According to Walshe, what makes this load forecast different for TVA is that the entire Tennessee Valley will be below freezing for at least 48 hours—from Friday morning January 6 until late Monday morning January 9.
“We expect to see a 26,000 MW load on a weekday,” he says. “What is different in this case is that we are preparing for a high weekend load which normally does not happen.” Normally, power demand drops on weekends because industries and workplaces are not in use.
However, TVA is ready, having been preparing equipment and facilities for months, Walshe explains. “The good thing about Mother Nature is that she’s predictable at least twice a year—the summer is hot and the winter is cold.”
“Our proactive preparation, as well as our readiness to react, helps us to safely, consistently and economically respond to the increased demands and pressures winter brings,” said Joe Grimes, executive vice president of Generation and chief nuclear officer. “We have a lot of dedicated people at our 56 generating facilities, who serve our customers by keeping the equipment running and the power flowing.”
According to TVA, regardless of what season we are in, power-generating units must always be in the optimal condition to provide electricity at a moment’s notice. For example, TVA’s pumped-storage facility, Raccoon Mountain, can go from generating zero electricity to generating about 1,600 MWs in about 45 seconds. That is enough electricity to power 650,000 homes.
Electricity demand in the Tennessee Valley normally peaks in winter, but with relatively mild weather the utility is not seeing as much energy demand now as it did this past summer. Overall, TVA is forecasting a moderate winter. However, it’s always ready when a cold front comes in.
“TVA is no stranger to colder-than-normal temperatures and is aware that the cold puts great demands on the electric system,” said Tim Ponseti, vice president, Transmission Operations & Power Supply. “Procedures are in place to guarantee the system remains stable and secure.”
Protecting the company’s assets during extreme weather is important, but the company says employee safety is always a priority for those who must work in harsh winter weather. To minimize individual exposures to frigid temperatures, the utility calls in additional staff.