VEC Weathers New Record for Peak Demand

The new year got off to a frigid start as the Tennessee Valley was hit by the lowest temperatures that have been recorded in 20 years on January 7th and 8th. Those frigid temperatures also prompted a new record for electricity consumption across Volunteer Energy Cooperative’s 17-county service area.

The highest previous demand for electricity across our system occurred in January of 2009 when we moved 634.5 megawatts of electricity. This January’s event shattered that mark as our peak demand reached 729.4 megawatts. We exceeded our previous record by 15% – or roughly enough electricity to run an entire city the size of Athens, Tennessee.

Emergency Preparations & Vigilance Kept Interruptions to a Minimum

The preparations we made immediately preceding the event and the system upgrades that we have made over the past 10 years made a tremendous difference in keeping interruptions to a minimum.

Over the past 10 years VEC has spent more than $30 million building new substations and making major renovations to other substations. These improvements include building two new substations in Polk County (Benton Substation and Ocoee Substation); two new substations in Cumberland County (Campbell Junction Substation and Fairfield Glade Substation); three new substations in Bradley County (Hopewell Substation, South Bradley Substation, and Hiawassee Substation); two new substations in Hamilton County (Wolftever Substation, and North Ooltewah Substation); one new substation in McMinn County (Riceville Substation); and one new substation in Pickett County (Byrdstown Substation).

The major renovations we’ve completed at substations to increase our system capacity and improve reliability include completely rebuilding our Crab Orchard Substation in Cumberland County; increasing transformer capacity and installing a new breaker bay at Monterey Substation in Putnam County; installing new breaker bays at Tasso Substation in Bradley County; adding a new circuit and additional breaker capacity at Spring City Substation in Rhea County; increasing transformer capacity at Ravenscroft Substation in White County; adding transformer capacity and new breakers at Spring Creek Substation in McMinn County; and adding a new 69kV breaker and a new 13kV breaker at Athens Substation in McMinn County. We also more than doubled the transformer capacity at Lantana Substation in Cumberland County; increased the transformer capacity at Mayland Substation in Cumberland County, and installed new breakers at the McDonald Substation in Bradley County.

Our commitment to system improvements don’t end there as we also have two new substations that are under construction that we expect to energize in 2014.

In addition to these upgrades, VEC has also maintained vigorous right-of-way clearing and pole inspection/pole replacement programs.

VEC’s preparation and response to extreme weather events has also been enhanced by our Central Control and Dispatch Center.

In the summer of 2009 VEC completed construction and began using a new 6,379-square-foot centralized dispatch and call center that brings our system mapping, Supervisory Control and Data Acquisition (SCADA), Outage Manage System (OMS), Interactive Voice Response (IVR), and weather monitoring systems into a central control center.

VEC’s distribution system includes 33 substations, 9,000 miles of line, and 180,000 utility poles and covers about 2,850 square miles in 17 counties. Maintaining system reliability and keeping up with an increasing demand for electricity requires a commitment to ongoing system improvements and maintenance. We have embraced that commitment at VEC.