BY SARAH R. GREGORY
The Greeneville Light & Power System (GL&PS) expects that a new all-time record for energy demand was met this morning when Greene County residents cranked up their heating systems while bitter cold swept through the area.
GL&PS General Manager Bill Carroll said in an interview Monday afternoon that the system was prepared to meet the demand and respond quickly if any issues arise.
"If TVA [Tennessee Valley Authority] continues to do what they are excellent at -- generating and transmitting power -- we've got plenty of capacity in our lines to get it out to the county," Carroll said Monday afternoon.
"If TVA delivers it to us, we'll get it out to the county, and if anything goes wrong, we'll get it fixed," he added.
Carroll said early this morning that the system made it through Monday night in fairly good shape, but approximately 2,000 customers in the Nolichucky and Rheatown areas lost power in the early morning hours today.
Carroll said that one wire was pulled apart as its metal connectors contracted in the cold around 3 a.m.
A guide-wire connected to a power pole in the Rheatown area also snapped, causing a pole to break.
Crews were able to restore power to the majority of customers; however, approximately 500 in the Rheatown community remained without power as of 8 a.m.
"Right now, things are looking good," Carroll said this morning.
"We apparently are setting all-time peak demand, but won't know [the final numbers] for a few weeks," he noted.
The utility is asking that customers turn off various electronics and other appliances when not in use to help reduce the electric power demand.
The GL&PS office building and shop areas have back-up generators and had planned to detach from the grid during peak hours of 7 to 9 a.m. this morning to lighten the load, Carroll said.
TVA EXPECTING HIGH DEMAND
A news release from TVA said the huge regional power provider is expecting high -- but not record-breaking -- demand today, and has spent several days preparing.
TVA's all-time record winter demand of 32,572 megawatts was set Jan. 16, 2009, when temperatures across the Tennessee Valley averaged 9 degrees.
All-time record demand for any time of year was 33,482 megawatts on Aug. 16, 2007, when temperatures averaged 102 degrees, the news release said.
TVA expected demand to exceed 31,000 megawatts Monday evening and reach nearly 32,000 megawatts by Tuesday evening.
"TVA has been monitoring and carefully preparing for this blast of potentially record-cold weather since last week," said TVA Chief Operating Officer Chip Pardee.
"We have taken proactive measures so the system remains robust and reliable for our customers and power-users," he said.
TVA says it has been working with the region's 155 local power companies and industrial companies to ensure an uninterrupted supply of electricity.
The power provider has also indefinitely suspended all non-essential maintenance activities to minimize the risk of power interruptions.
According to the news release, TVA's bulk electrical system remains secure and stable.
Locally, GL&PS has experienced no issues either, Carroll said.
He said the extreme cold generally does not cause many problems for the utility.
The exceptions, he said, generally occur when temperatures drop low enough to make metal connectors contract, resulting in dropped power lines.
"Wires can come down for no apparent reason. But absent any large ice or snow event, those will be isolated incidents," Carroll said.
Other problems can occur after motor vehicle accidents, when vehicles slide into power poles.
GL&PS crews are prepared to respond quickly to those sorts of incidents, Carroll said.
The utility has sent extra workers home in their GL&PS service trucks, not their personal vehicles, so that they may respond more quickly to any problems that occur.
"The trucks have engine-block heaters on them, so they will crank right up and they can get out there [to fix any issues]," Carroll added.
CAUTION ABOUT GENERATORS
The utility is asking individuals who use portable generators to make sure any units wired into their home's electric panel are connected in a way that meets code requirements.
If a line is dead and a generator wired into a home's panel is not properly set up, feedback can occur and energize GL&PS' high-voltage system.
Such feedback puts the utility's line workers in danger as they respond to work on any "dead" power lines, Carroll said.
Those using generators wired into their home's electric panel should contact an electrician to ensure that there is a physical separation between their own generator, switch box, and the GL&PS meter base, Carroll said.