By Jack Gurner
WATER VALLEY – Work will begin soon on improvements to the City’s electrical infrastructure that will not only improve reliability, but will also help consumers save money.
The most noticeable change for consumers will be the installation of advanced metering infrastructure (AMI) meters, according to Electric Department Manager Joe Newman. The AMI devices – called smart meters – record electrical consumption in intervals of an hour or less and communicate that information back to the utility throughout the day for monitoring and billing purposes.
Newman hopes to begin the project this summer and have installation complete by the first part of 2012. “TVA is telling me they are going to start billing us time-of-use rates Oct. 2012. So, we’ll have a six to nine month time frame to educate our customers on how this is going to work,” he said.
Under the “time-of-use” rate structure, TVA will charge the Water Valley Electric Department more during peak use hours; from noon until 8 p.m. during the summer and from 4 a.m. until 10 a.m. in the winter. What that means to consumers is that they will pay more for electricity used during the peak hours. Utility customers who are willing to change their lifestyle and the way they operate appliances in their home can save money.
Newman said that consumers will be able to monitor their power consumption. “They can alter how they use their power to help keep their bill for fluctuating so much.”
Newman, who is retiring from the electric depart-ment in August, added that a thorough campaign is being planned to educate the public on time-of-use rate and what it means.
He said that incoming Electric Department Man-ager Andy Hall will oversee much of that campaign. “But, we’ll spend a lot of time between now and August talking about how to handle it.”
Another project that is in the planning stages is the addition of a second transformer at the 161 kV station located on Gore Circle. Newman said that a second unit will make the station – for lack of a better term – more reliable.
He explained that power comes in at 161,000 volts and goes out on the system at 13,200 volts. Currently the utility has just one transformer to perform that task. If it goes out, TVA has three mobile spare transformers on trailers that can be brought in while repairs are being made.
Newman said that the Electric Department needs to be in a position to turn the power right back on by switching from one transformer to another instead of having to call TVA to bring one of their spares. “We need the reliability another one would give us.”
“The substation on the north end is already in that position,” he said. “There are two transformers which are alternated about every three months.”
Newman added that once the station is upgraded and paid for, it will save money and help the department keep rates competitive.
Overall the City’s electrical infrastructure is in good to excellent shape, according to Newman. “There are some areas that are older that take away from the excellent part.”
But, he adds, the Electric Department is working everyday to upgrade the system. A prime example is the dedicated line built to serve BorgWarner that can also be used to feed power to the hospital, nursing home and doctor’s clinics if necessary.
Newman said he caught a little flak for putting in the line because there were those who didn’t think it was necessary. It’s been a plus for BorgWarner since every outage on the old line caused them terrible headaches and lots of money.
“My thinking is, Borg-Warner is the biggest industry; the hospital, nursing home and doctor’s clinics are probably one of the most important parts of town. We’ve got to have them.”