Utilities set peak demand records during winter storm

Published 3:26 pm Friday, January 26, 2024

By Jack Dobbs, Bowling Green Daily News

The Tennessee Valley Authority saw its two highest recorded peak power demands in its 90 year history as the recent winter storm battered the region with snow, ice and well-below freezing temperatures,

The records come after TVA invested over $123 million in upgrading its systems following Winter Storm Elliott, which blasted the Southeast in late 2022 and led to planned rolling blackouts.

Warren Rural Electric Cooperative also hit a record, with its demand reaching 550 megawatts the same day as TVA’s record was broken.

“We remained in constant contact with TVA during both storms and our teams were ready to act,” said Kim Phelps, senior director of Communications and Public Relations for WRECC.

Phelps said the main difference between the two storms was “preparation.”

“A lot of Elliott was due to failures of equipment on the TVA side,” Phelps said. “This time repairs have been made, precautions taken and preparation completed.”

Unlike TVA and WRECC, Bowling Green Municipal Utilities did not hit an all time peak demand. Shelley Lowe, marketing coordinator for BGMU, said in an email BGMU hit approximately 158 megawatts during the storm, just shy of its current all-time winter peak of 161.8 megawatts.

“We will not know our exact peak until we receive our billing information for the month from TVA,” Lowe said.

Lowe also said aside from the failure of a BGMU substation on Cabell Drive the night of Jan. 15, the company had no other weather-related issues during the storm.

During Winter Storm Elliott, utility services across Bowling Green were forced to enact rolling blackouts to ease stress on electrical systems. The blackouts were part of TVA’s Emergency Load Curtailment Program.

Lowe said there was “better communication” between TVA and local power companies during the most recent storm.

“This improved communication allowed us to pass along information to our customers in a more proactive manner,” Lowe said.

In a release, TVA said peak power demand came at 8 a.m. Central Standard Time on Jan. 17, topping out at 34,524 megawatts. On Sunday, the company’s second highest recorded peak was set at 34,284 megawatts.

“We started preparing for this winter immediately following Winter Storm Elliott,” Aaron Melda, senior vice president of Power Supply Operations for TVA, said in a release. “We were focused on getting it right for the 10 million customers who depend on the power we provide.”

The week of Jan. 15-21 also now holds the record of most power delivered in one week. According to the release, TVA supplied 4,790 gigawatt hours of power during that time, the most since the last record was set in January 2010.

Phelps said these investments were “wonderful.”

“It really helped out with preventing any kind of interruptions this year,” Phelps said.

TVA said in the release its power transmission systems remained “stable and secure” during the storm, and only 3% of its fleet was unavailable during the energy peaks.

“We are grateful to our employees, and our local power company partners, who worked around the clock,” Melda said in the release. “Because of their work as well as the conservation efforts of our local power companies and all the people across the region, we were able to successfully supply power to keep everyone warm and safe during these extreme winter conditions.”