By Kenny Baird – LUB General Manager

LAFOLLETTE, TN (SPECIAL TO WLAF) – The local power companies (LPC’s) across the Tennessee Valley have been experiencing power system issues since late last night.  The strong winds and cold temperatures that swept through the region around midnight have put a tremendous strain on the electric grid.  The LaFollette Utilities Board’s (LUB) system is no exception.

The first issue that we dealt with was the sustained wind gusts that brought down trees and tree limbs from outside our normal rights-of-way, causing damage to power lines and power poles.  Our dedicated, loyal employees sprang into action almost immediately to identify and repair the damage as quickly as possible.  But unlike most windstorms, we had another issue to deal with – sub-freezing temperatures.

When a power line has been out of service for several hours in these kinds of temperatures, power systems deal with a phenomenon known as “cold load pickup.”  This occurs when power is restored to a line section and all of the homes become energized at the same time.  All of the heat pumps, electric water heaters, refrigerators, freezers, etc. come on at the same time, causing an overcurrent condition that can blow the fuse or trip the breaker feeding that line section.  Many times, the power will be out longer because our crews have to bring the line section back up a little at a time, allowing the electric devices in each home or business to go through their cycles.  That is one of the reasons we ask our customers to turn off their heat pumps until the power is restored.

As you may have seen in the Knoxville media today, our generation and transmission provider, the Tennessee Valley Authority (TVA), took the unprecedented step of calling for “rolling blackouts” across the Valley, reducing electrical load that would allow them to avoid a catastrophic failure of their system due to the loss of several key generating units.  That is the first time in my 30 years of service at LUB that I have seen them call for this drastic measure and could be the first time in the history of TVA that they have called for this.  TVA was created by an act of Congress in 1933, so they’ve been around for almost 90 years!

LUB was able to avoid the rolling blackouts, unlike some of our neighboring power systems, by taking measures to reduce our overall electric load by more than the 5% reduction that TVA asked us to curtail.  This was accomplished by dropping some downline breakers and calling on several large commercial and industrial customers to curtail. Thanks to entities such as Gold Creek Foods and the Campbell County Board of Education, we were able to reduce our load by nearly 10%.

I would also like to thank our residential customers for responding to our request to reduce the electric load in their homes by cutting thermostats a few degrees, postponing washing and drying clothes, and cutting off any unneeded lights.  This helped us meet our load reduction requirement in a big way.

I certainly hope that we are able to avoid the issues that we’ve dealt with today throughout the weekend.  Please stay warm and safe.  The folks from LUB would like to wish everyone a Merry Christmas!  We appreciate the opportunity to serve you and to improve the quality of life in our community every day.

Kenny Baird

LUB General Manager

(WLAF NEWS PUBLISHED – 12/23/2022-5PM)

3 Replies to “LUB took measures to avoid rolling blackouts Friday”

  1. Thank you Mr. Baird. A good explanation of some of the problems faced by the electric utility industry and the people that work there.

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