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LCUB takes steps to assure service

LCUB is taking steps to improve electrical reliability and power, said substation engineer Craig Dunn during a department report at the LCUB meeting Monday, July 19.

“When we have a problem, it affects fewer people now,” Dunn said of changes that already have occurred at several electrical substations.

Many transformers have been replaced or reconnected, Dunn said, to ensure that if something happens to one, all of them don’t go out — a situation that could result in an extended power outage.

The Watt Road, Westland, Turkey Creek, Solway and McFee Road substations all are due for upgrades, Dunn said.

LCUB also has started a new tree trimming policy — one quarter of the entire system is trimmed each year, so the whole system is trimmed every four years. That cuts down on power outages and power loss from tree limbs touching transmission lines, Dunn said.

LCUB also is making the switch to automatic meters. These meters automatically send LCUB power readings, eliminating the need for meter readers.

“Everything is wireless and self-powered. LCUB would know when your power goes out before you do,” Dunn said.

LCUB is installing 10,000 of the meters a year.

Changes to the substations and power lines not only help customers, Dunn said, but they help LCUB. In 2007, estimated net income from the substations was about $1.5 million. In 2008, after various improvements, that number jumped to about $9.5 million.

“That’s a direct reflection on lower operating costs and fewer losses,” Dunn said.

Finally, Dunn discussed problems LCUB had discovered with TVA’s Generation Partners program, which encourages use of “green” energy sources such as solar panels.

“LCUB was the first [utility district] to connect to the green power program, and we’re proud of that,” Dunn said.

However, studies of LCUB customers who’d installed solar panels revealed a few problems with the conversion, the first being that the solar panels generated barely one-third of the power needed in each of the homes.

So even customers with solar panels were still buying most of their power from LCUB.

In addition, the solar panels caused problems if there was an outage or a downed power line. The solar panels didn’t stop generating electricity, meaning the lines still could be active from “back-feed” power generated by the panels.

If there were an outage or downed line, the homes with solar panels had to be manually disconnected from the rest of the system in order to repair any lines, Dunn said.

“It’s not supposed to cost us anything, but it does,” he added.

Dunn said there were about 10 LCUB customers who had or were in the process of building solar panels, including the town of Farragut, which will place solar panels on a pavilion at McFee Park.

LCUB also mapped out a possible plan to sell its Macedonia gas customers to Oak Ridge Utility District.

The item wasn’t on the published agenda — it was added at the request of LCUB general manager Shannon Littleton, who asked the Board for continued negotiating powers with ORUB.

“We’re getting to a point where we need to make a decision,” Littleton said.

LCUB gave Littleton the ability to negotiate the sell; no hard numbers were given since the matter is still in the negotiation stage.


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