Is TVA’s Electric Grid Eclipse-Ready?

Wednesday, August 2, 2017 - by TVA Newsroom

About seven million homes across the country that rely on solar farms and rooftop solar panels will lose power generation during the Great American Eclipse on Aug. 21. As a result, utilities like PG&E in California have asked their customers to turn off appliances during the eclipse to help ease the strain on the grid and avoid the need to start up inefficient back-up power plants.    

With media reporting that the eclipse could wipe out 9,000 Megawatts of power supply across the nation—the equivalent of about nine nuclear reactors—we went to the experts at TVA to see how the Valley would be faring. 

Patrick Walshe, TVA Operations & Analysis manager, explains that as the largest public utility in the United States has been readying for this event for months. “We are absolutely ready because we’ve been preparing for this eclipse like a major storm or temperature event that could affect our ability to keep electricity flowing to our consumers.” 

Mr. Walshe says for those in TVA’s service territory, electricity shouldn’t be a concern. That’s because TVA has conducted proactive maintenance, reviewed processes and procedures with employees, and closely coordinated with other utilities around TVA’s service area to mitigate any negative impacts the eclipse may have on the power grid. 

With electricity taken care of, Mr. Walshe encourages Valley residents to take advantage of this rare and exciting opportunity—it’s the first solar eclipse to traverse coast to coast in nearly a century. According to NASA, a solar eclipse happens when the moon completely obscures the sun, casting a shadow along the Earth. While about 70 percent of the sun will be obscured across the United States, 90 to 100 percent of the sun will be obscured in the Tennessee Valley. Nashville is the largest city in the Valley to lie wholly within the “path of totality,” and numerous others are within a short drive. 

TVA currently sources about 400 Megawatts of electricity from over 3,000 locations across the Tennessee Valley, and is adding more all the time. 

Not to worry, Mr. Walshe says: “We don’t put all of our eggs in one generating basket., so we’ll have plenty of clean, low-cost, reliable power to meet the demand.” 

Mr. Walshe says that TVA’s balanced generating portfolio provides flexibility and value to consumers because they can easily switch between generating sources to keep lights on and costs low. 

From the command center in Chattanooga, TVA monitors the power grid 24/7 and will have extra staff on hand during the eclipse to ensure there are no hiccups.   

“It’s our job to keep Valley industry working during the eclipse,” Mr. Walshe says. “Rest assured that we are ready to generate electricity with the right fuel, at the right time, at the lowest cost possible to do just that."

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