The Tennessee Valley Authority has reduced capacity at its Allen combined cycle plant on President’s Island at the request of Memphis, Light, Gas and Water. The movement is to conserve water in the midst of low water pressure throughout the city.
The outages represent about 33% of the plant’s 1,050 megawatt capacity, which means TVA must send more electricity to Memphis to compensate for the outages.
TVA CEO Jeff Lyash said the federal electricity supplier’s decision to cut some of Allen’s production will have no impact on keeping the lights on in Memphis or on the footprint of the seven states VAT. For each of the utility companies that are part of it, TVA, and not the local utility company, is responsible for ensuring that there is enough electricity to serve them.
TVA, like all utilities, has what’s called a reserve margin, the amount of energy it retains to meet peak demand. That margin is around 26% in winter for TVA, which means it tries to have 26% more power output than it needs.
“We have to change some of the transmission systems to reconfigure them so that the current still flows and [we] going to increase some other assets in the system, less efficient assets, but still assets that are in our reserve margin, ”Lyash said.[and]will maintain the reliability of the system and support MLGW until it can make this make-up water system. “
TVA is MLGW’s largest water customer
MLGW is the largest local electricity company in the VAT footprint. It represents around 10% of VAT revenues from electricity production. TVA is also MLGW’s biggest water customer, which means it buys more water in Memphis than anyone else.
This water is used to operate the steam turbine at the Allen plant. There are two natural gas turbines at the plant, which run on fuel and generate electricity that way. The heat from these turbines is used to boil water for the plant’s steam turbine, which produces more electricity.
TVA stopped taking water to run the steam turbine last night, shutting down that asset and reducing the plant’s capacity by 350 megawatts. For context, MLGW’s electrical load or energy demand was 2,800 megawatts on Tuesday during the coldest period of the deep frost that hit the South. Allen supplies some, but never all, of Memphis’ electricity.
TVA CEO Continues To Introduce Memphis And Highlight Risks Of Leaving
The TVA chief executive used Allen’s discussion to raise the multi-billion dollar issue of the Memphis talks about leaving TVA and joining the independent system operator of the Midcontinent, a power grid commonly referred to as MISO. . His comments came at a time when utilities within MISO in Mississippi, Arkansas and Louisiana are still struggling to meet demand and not everyone has the power.
“If MLGW wants to get away from TVA, they have a way to do it, and they can do it,” Lyash said. “But the complexity of the business, the risk you take by going out on your own, exposing yourself to power, the fuel market and building your own production facilities, and trying to manage them is a huge risk. . “
Lyash’s comments touch on a very real possibility. If Memphis left TVA, it could build its own natural gas plant (s) and generate solar power to much of its capacity. It would also build transmission lines in MISO and, if necessary, purchase electricity from the MISO market. At the height of the cold this week, prices in the MISO market have skyrocketed, making it very expensive for those who buy wholesale.
“Let’s say Memphis had left TVA and was linked with a transmission to MISO,” Lyash said. “And MLGW had solar power plants and their own combined cycle power plants. If you were in this situation and the snow covered the sun, there were transmission constraints like in MISO South, and you shut off the water in your combined cycle power plant and had to shut some down. It looks a lot different than if you are part of a 36,000 megawatt system that can cover that risk for you. “
Lyash again took issue with the analysis which shows $ 120 million in annual savings for MLGW if it quits TVA. Power outages across the south, in MISO and in the Texas grid known as the Electric Reliability Council of Texas, or ERCOT, show the risk of leaving, he said.
“You’re taking a risk that you need to make sure you quantify in dollars and cents and the impact on families and businesses,” Lyash said.
Samuel Hardiman is a surveillance reporter who covers Memphis city government, politics, and pandemic response for The Commercial Appeal. He can be contacted by email at [email protected] or followed on Twitter at @samhardiman.
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