Hot weather pushes TVA power demand to summertime high

TVA's Patrick Walshe, meteorologist and Manager of Resource Operations and Analysis, talks about what happened in the power control center as the tornados of 2011 hit the area. "You could watch wattage go down across the valley as the storms moved through the area," TVA spokesman Scott Allen Fielder said.

Keeping cool amid the hot and muggy temperatures in the Tennessee Valley this week is pushing up power demand for TVA to the highest point yet this summer.

Electrical users across the 7-state region consumed 28,033 megawatts of power as air conditioners in homes and offices cooled building amid temperatures that reached an average high of 91 degrees Fahrenheit at 5 p.m. Tuesday.

Patrick Walshe, manager of resource operations and analysis for transmission operations and power supply at TVA, said temperatures may not be quite as hot today across the region, but TVA still expects its peak power demand today to top 28,000 megawatts.

"We've been close to average temperatures through June of this year, but we still think it might average a degree or two above normal for the rest of the summer," said Walshe, a meteorologist who oversees TVA's power load planning. "Our summer peaks are usually in the last week of July and the first couple of weeks of August."

Walshe said TVA expects to have no trouble meeting the demand for power, even with TVA's newest nuclear nuclear reactor still offline for repairs.

"We do most of our maintenance outages in the spring and fall to meet the peak demands in the winter and summer so we've got everything online ready to go," Walsche said.

While TVA has most of its generation capacity at the ready, the utility's newest reactor at the Watts Bar nuclear plant remains idle while workers repair a ruptured condenser that broke apart when support beams failed at the reactor on March 23.

TVA started the Unit 2 reactor at Watts Bar last October, but officials expect the $5 billion unit to be offline until later this summer because of the difficulty of replacing and repairing the condenser equipment in the tight quarters on the non-nuclear side of the plant.

Scattered showers forecast for Thursday and Friday should limit the peak demand during this week's hot weather, Walsche said.

TVA's highest power peak of the year was reached on Jan. 14 when temperatures fell to 14 degrees and TVA customers used 28,8634 megawatts of power.

Most homes and offices in the TVA service territory use electric-powered heat pumps and furnaces and a majority of all buildings are air conditioned.

With improved energy efficiency, however, TVA doesn't expect to return to the power loads reached before the Great Recession until after 2020, according to its long-term power plan.