TVA to build $ 300 million power control center in Meigs County

Correction: This story has been updated to show that Bill James is the mayor of Meigs County, not Marion County.

TVA just put Georgetown on the map.

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* TVA will hold an information session from 3 p.m. to 7 p.m. Thursday at Cedar Ridge Seventh-Day Adventist Fellowship Hall in Georgetown, Tennessee, to discuss the proposed transmission project.

* Read about the project on the web at www.tva.com/Energy/Transmission-System/Transmission-System-Projects/Georgetown-Tennessee-Gunstocker-Creek

The Tennessee Valley Authority plans to build a new $ 300 million system operations center in southern Meigs County as part of one of TVA’s largest power grid upgrades in 85 years of operation. history of public service.

Paul Melda

The new facility, which is expected to be built over the next three years on a part of more than 150 acres that TVA acquired last year near Georgetown and Gunstocker Creek, will replace the power control center now housed under the Chattanooga office complex in downtown TVA.

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Greg Vital, President and CEO of Independent Healthcare Properties, LLC, is pictured at the company’s new offices in Ooltewah.

Aaron Melda, TVA’s vice president of transmission and power operations, said on Tuesday that the new secure facility is being built to help accommodate a new energy management system that will be supported by a another $ 300 million extension of fiber optic lines the agency is also building. along approximately 3,500 miles of the 16,000 miles of TVA transmission lines.

“We believe this will be transformative and provide us with a platform for the future to position TVA to provide the most competitive and reliable electricity,” said Melda. “With all the new solar rooftops and other distributed energy that could be coming, along with smart meters and other new technologies, what’s going to be critical from a central operations perspective is that we can have visibility, power. predicting and, in some cases, being able to control – all of those things. “

Melda said about 175 of the 240 employees who work in the VAT system’s operations center will likely move from downtown Chattanooga to the new Georgetown facility by the time they are fully operational in 2023.

Melda said TVA has been planning what officials have dubbed “Grid 2023” for a number of years to prepare the federal utility for the changing market. In the future, Melda said, more consumers could pay different tariffs for electricity at different times of the day and more customers could have their own self-generation or energy storage from solar panels, wind turbines. or batteries.

Although TVA officials have said the new facility is necessary for the future, some residents of the Georgetown area have said they were unaware of the plans and oppose the company’s secrecy. regarding the acquisition of the site and the intention to install power lines in the area for the necessary connections.

Before the end of Tuesday, TVA had not yet publicly disclosed its intention to relocate its system operations center to the Georgetown area. Residents in the area complained that TVA was not transparent with its plans. A number of them started a Facebook page, “Stop Destroying Tennessee Farms,” ​​and wondered why “Monster Power” was destroying more farmland in Tennessee.

But Melda said the new resilience standards from the North American Electric Reliability Corp. require additional security from electric utilities for the US power grid, leading the Southern Co. in Georgia and other utilities to move their system operation centers to remote and secure locations.

“It has become preferable, although not a standard, to move your systems operations out of an urban center,” he said. “A number of new regulatory standards are being put in place for protection against electromagnetic (EMP) or geomagnetic pulses. “

TVA officials declined to detail all of their security measures for their facilities. But last October, TVA also opened a cybersecurity operations center at the Chattanooga office complex to monitor and thwart cyber attacks against the network.

The downtown Market and 11th Street power control facility, although built in an underground bunker behind a series of locked doors with 24-hour security, is still potentially more vulnerable to attack terrorist than a remote location like farmland and vacant woodland site that TVA bought in Meigs County, Melda said.

The existing system operations center was built two decades ago under the Missionary Ridge building of the TVA office complex in Chattanooga and “is nearing the end of its useful life,” Melda said. Additionally, trying to install the new power management system software in the city center while control operators are still distributing electricity could create problems, Melda said.

By building a brand new facility to replace the system operating center, Melda said, TVA can fix any bugs in the new power management system software and power control functions before proceeding. a change.

Last August, the agency bought more than 165 acres from a few landowners in southern Meigs County, near Highway 58 north of Georgetown, as the site of its new system operations center.

But TVA officials hadn’t explained why they bought the property or their plans for the extra-secure system operating center. Because such a center controls how electricity is generated, distributed and delivered to nearly 9 million people, it functions as the brains of TVA and must be in a secure facility.

TVA is holding a public hearing Thursday in Georgetown on a $ 26 million plan to extend a 161,000-volt transmission line until the agency initially called it a “secure office” on part of its property. TVA said the new line will be constructed using dual-circuit steel poles over 4.25 miles of an existing 100-foot-wide right-of-way and another mile of new 100 to 150-foot-wide right-of-way. .

Greg Vital, the president of Morning Pointe Senior Living which owns a bison farm and other properties in the area, said he was not opposed to TVA making the necessary improvements to security and supply. electricity.

“But this is a rural area without a lot of infrastructure, and launching a major project there without any prior discussion seems to reek a bit of dishonesty in the posts,” said Vital, who said the one of the proposed lines seems to cross. his property, but no one at TVA has told him about it yet. “Don’t you think it would have been better if TVA spoke to the three owners they need for public access through their property, which they don’t have?”

Vital said the new VAT facility is likely to change the character of the rural area.

“I will say TVA just put Georgetown on the map,” he said.

Vital contacted elected officials at the federal and local levels, including US Representatives Chuck Fleischmann and Scott DesJarlais, as well as Meigs County Mayor Bill James. But those officials were also unaware of TVA’s massive construction plans until they were announced Tuesday after repeated questions from local residents and the Times Free Press.

“All we want is transparency, and TVA just needs to be clear and try to build support from the people in this area, rather than hiding their plans, alienating people and then pushing back. acquire this site and extend these power lines across our property, ”Vital said. “They acquired 165 acres to build this resort, and it’s a bit arrogant to assume that they want to have the support and help from the community, and then use a prominent estate without even trying to build support.”

TVA is offering to negotiate easements for the property and will discuss its plans during Thursday’s public hearing. But as a federal public service, the agency has the power to use the eminent domain to acquire property that it deems to be of public interest.

Contact Dave Flessner at [email protected] or 423-757-6340.

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