Cold weather pushes TVA power use to all-time daily high

Cold weather pushes TVA power use to all-time daily high

January 9th, 2014 by Dave Flessner in Business Around the Region

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The Arctic blast of coldest weather this week put the heat on for TVA, which sold a record daily amount of electricity on Tuesday following one of the highest demand days on Monday.

As homes, offices and factories cranked up electric furnaces and heaters to cope with the coldest day in the Tennessee Valley in nearly two decades, TVA sold a record 703 gigawatthours of electricity on Tuesday. That beat the previous daily record set of 701 gigawatt hours set in January 2010, TVA spokesman Duncan Mansfield said Wednesday.

Tuesday's record use of power followed Monday's 678 gigawatt hours of power consumption -- the fourth highest date for daily power sales in TVA history -- when temperatures fell into single digits late in the day.

The Valley's average temperature Tuesday never got above 21 degrees, and the average was just 4 degrees Tuesday morning when TVA's power system experienced its second highest winter peak power demand ever.

After two and a half days of sub-freezing temperatures, the thermometer topped 32 degrees Fahrenheit Wednesday afternoon, allowing TVA to lift its emergency measures imposed during the rare Southern deep freeze.

TVA's peak power consumption was reached Tuesday morning at 32,490 megawatts when the average temperature in the 7-state region was only 4 degrees. Power use would have been even higher had not some of TVA's largest customers on interruptible power contracts scaled back their power use during the peak demand period. TVA also lowered the temperature in its own offices and plants and asked for voluntary conservation measures by its 155 distributors.

Such measures helped shave at least 1,000 megawatts off of the peak and helped TVA meet the high demand, even with its Raccoon Mountain Pumped Storage Facility in Chattanooga still out of commission for repairs.

TVA also purchased about 13 percent of its power Tuesday from other utilities and independent power producers and fired up most of its combustion turbines to handle the heavy load. But TVA spokesman Duncan Mansfield said TVA did not activate any of its idled coal-fired units, which TVA plans to shut down at the Colbert Fossil Plant in Alabama and parts of the Widows Creek and Paradise plants in Alabama and Kentucky.

"There was extraordinary effort and great teamwork under challenging and fast changing circumstances," said Tim Ponseti, vice president of TVA transmission, operations and power supply. "Meeting back-to-back peak loads over 31,500 megawatts on Monday night and Tuesday morning, coupled with extremely low temperatures, took a tremendous amount of preparation, coordination and quick action."

TVA has had higher peak demand periods during hot afternoons in the summer of 2009. But this week's cold weather kept electric furnaces operating around the clock.

To meet the 32,460-megawatt peak load Tuesday morning, TVA received 28 percent of its power from coal-fired plants, 21 percent from nuclear plants, 14 percent from combined cycle natural gas plants, 11 percent from hydroelectric dams, 10 percent from conventional gas turbines, 2 percent from wind farms and 13 percent from power market purchases.

The power crunch should ease for the rest of the week. Valley temperatures are expected to see highs in the 50s by Friday.