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Friday, September 28, 2007

October 07 - Growing Pains for Glasgow

Somewhere around 1974, Glasgow’s electric power supply began to flow through a new substation located discreetly in our southern suburb, Haywood. Since then, like many of us who endured the 70's, that substation has gotten a bit old and gray and in need of a long vacation. So, we are about to embark upon a long and expensive voyage which will end in the construction of a new substation to provide some relief to our old friend in Haywood.

It is not just the age of our Haywood substation that is causing us to worry. We are also concerned with its size, for Glasgow’s use of electric power is spiraling upward at a breathtaking pace. In August we set new all time records for electric power consumption even though SKF, one of our largest customers, has shut down. If they had still been in operation in August that peak demand would have been, well . . . shocking!

Taking the age and capacity of our Haywood substation into account, about a year ago we made up with TVA and asked them to consider building a new transmission line to Glasgow as a symbol of our reconciliation and of our new love for each other. While they denied that request, they did start serious evaluation of our situation and the likely growth of Glasgow’s energy needs over the next several years. After a great deal of hard work and study, they recently agreed that Glasgow does indeed need a second power delivery substation and a new transmission line to feed that substation. So, we thanked them for their work and we have started the process of choosing a location to build Glasgow’s second primary energy delivery point. The new substation we will build will likely cost us about $5 million. The transmission line that TVA will build will likely cost about the same. You can read more about the project from TVA's perspective here.

This is not a move we make lightly. It is not that we want to facilitate the continued unabated growth of energy consumption in Glasgow. If you have been reading my writings here over the last few years, you know that we are desperate to find ways to convince you to use less energy instead of more. We looked for a new energy supplier for three years, hoping to find an energy supplier that would work with us to encourage folks to use energy more efficiently. We failed in that effort. Since giving up on that search and returning to TVA, we have been encouraging them to offer us TOU (time-of-use) rates that would give you a reason to change your usage patterns. They responded with a lukewarm offer that has, so far, been interesting to only a few of you. We consider that a bit of a failure as well.

So, since it seems that trying to convince folks that not all growth is good produces a result which is similar to spitting into the wind, we find ourselves making big plans to build a second primary energy delivery point for Glasgow. This process will become quite active this month. TVA will conduct a public hearing on the need, and planned route, for a new 161,000 volt transmission line through the southeast quadrant of Barren County to feed our new delivery substation. In this hearing all of the property owners who might be impacted by the new transmission line will have a chance to voice their feelings about the new line. So it is likely that you will be hearing about that meeting, and the results thereof, in the local media during October. Obviously we are crossing our fingers that the route will be well accepted and that TVA will have a minimum of controversy to deal with. Since we have decided to do this, we want to do it with all possible haste.

At the same time, we have engaged a local engineering firm to do some preliminary analysis of our chosen site. It is an interesting piece of property. If your age is anywhere north of fifty, and if you were living here in the 60's, you will recall that the City used to collect all of the garbage in town, and take it out to a site affectionately known as “the dump.” At the dump, the garbage was set on fire (I know you younger folks are cringing at this, but we had not even heard of Al Gore at the time). Those of you who were around at the time will recall that the property is out Tompkinsville Road, just before where it goes over the Cumberland Parkway. You will also recall that you could see the column of smoke coming up from the burning trash from just about anywhere in town. Well, the City of Glasgow still owns that piece of property and that is where we are considering building the new substation. We might even call it The Dump Substation. Does that sound appropriate for a $5 million project?

At your home, if you borrow more money to build an addition to your house, you know that your monthly payments will increase. The same is true for the Glasgow EPB. We will be going out on the market to borrow the $5 million to finance this project. Thus, our payments will increase, and that means that we will have to increase the rates you pay for the energy which will pass though the new substation. Luckily, we will pay for the substation over a twenty-year period and the resulting rate increase will be quite small, only about 2%. Over the next several weeks we will be working to design the specifics of how this rate increase will be implemented, but it will likely start appearing on your electric bills shortly after the beginning of 2008.

Once TVA makes a final decision on the route of the new transmission line and if we determine that the old dump site is workable for the construction of the substation, things will quickly
start to happen. We have already ordered one of the massive power transformers which will be at the center of the new substation. Soon, we will be ordering another one of them (this has to be done soon since the delivery time for these units is about one year) and we are also about to have another similar transformer removed from our RR Donnelley Substation (it caught on fire and sort of detonated). So you will be seeing some extremely large and ominous looking pieces of equipment moving through our streets over the next 18 months.

We will also soon begin reconstructing our transmission lines through the middle of town along a path from Gorin Park to L. Rogers Well Blvd. This project is also needed to help us efficiently move the electric power from the new substation site to the rest of Glasgow. This project will commence before the end of November and, it too will likely cause some traffic congestion along the streets where that line is being rebuilt. It will replace a really old transmission line with a much more robust piece of infrastructure, that will benefit everyone.

As you encounter these obstacles to your free movement around town and as you encounter the higher rates for electric power, just remember that we, as a people, have chosen the path of constant and relentless growth in energy consumption (actually consumption of all goods). We, as a people, apparently believe this is the road to happiness and prosperity. Try to enjoy the ride!