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Wednesday, October 28, 2009

Second Power Delivery Point for Glasgow - On the Way

After five years of study, planning, pondering, and design, the Glasgow EPB just gave final approval to the plan to build a second power delivery point for the City of Glasgow. For the last thirty five years Glasgow’s electricity, all of it, came through a single substation at Haywood. Like the author, this station is aging and its reliability has become of great concern, since there are multiple devices in the substation that could fail, resulting in a complete loss of power for Glasgow. Obviously, this is something we must avoid.

Still, the decision has been difficult. On the one hand, one might feel that, since the city has been served well by one delivery point for the last several decades, the risk of failure is low and we might well get by a few more decades without making this major investment. If we could become comfortable with this risk, we certainly could save a lot of money. However, aging infrastructure is leading to disasters in other communities. The levees in New Orleans, the Interstate 35 bridge collapse in Minnesota, and other failures where saving money lead to disaster, and ultimately far greater cost, certainly weighed heavily on our minds as we pondered this decision.

On the other hand, refurbishing the Haywood Substation was really not a viable option. Replacing major components of the substation would require that the substation be out of service for an extended period. If this substation were out of service, everyone in Glasgow would be in the dark. So, we are officially beginning the construction of a new power delivery point which will be located off Tompkinsville Road near where it crosses the Cumberland Parkway. TVA has already constructed about seven miles of new 161 kV transmission line to serve the new substation. Soon, a local construction company, Larry Glass Construction, will start the earthwork necessary to build the substation. By the end of 2010, this new asset should be serving our community and the arterial portions of our electric power network in Glasgow will be vastly more robust. That does not mean that car wrecks, storms, and critters will not be able to cause some power outages. It does mean that our whole city will have a redundant source of power should any major component fail in either the old substation or the new one. It means we will not be guilty of putting short term savings over long term attention to the infrastructure necessary to make our homes safe and secure.

Of course, this improved power delivery system is going to cost money; a lot of money. By the time all costs for construction and upgrades to our transmission lines are in, the new delivery point will cost about $7 million. To make the payments on this additional debt, we have already asked for permission from TVA for a retail rate increase to become effective in January 2010. This increase will likely amount to something in the neighborhood of a 3% increase to the monthly power bills for all customers of Glasgow EPB. We will keep you posted on the details of this increase as the numbers firm up over the next few weeks. As we all know, this will be particularly difficult since some large power users have left us over the last several months due to the economic downturn, and others certainly could leave in the future. So, knowing just how much rates will need to increase will require us to have an accurate crystal ball which can predict what city-wide electricity usage is going to be over the next several years. Please let us know if you have one of those.