Wet Summer Means More Power From Dams, But TVA Has To Put Off Safety Checks

Workers install a turbine shaft at TVA's Watts Bar dam in 1942. Image: Library of Congress

Workers install a turbine shaft at TVA’s Watts Bar dam in 1942. Image: Library of Congress

The Tennessee Valley Authority is generating twice as much hydroelectric power, due to unseasonably wet weather. Turbines at the utility’s 29 dams have been running non-stop all summer. That means TVA can’t inspect them, as scheduled.

TVA usually performs safety checks in late summer. But generators are working overtime this year, so those inspections will have to wait.

At a recent meeting, TVA board members expressed concern about putting off the inspections, and the overall age of the utility’s hydroelectric turbines. Chief of Power Generation Chip Pardee says there’s no time limit to their overall lifespan, as long as they’re well maintained.

“Certainly, cost of generation is very low. The capital infusion can be very high,” he said. “But it’s not within our planning horizon to be looking at shutting any of these class of machines down.”

Pardee says the average age of TVA’s hydro generators is 70 years old. A hydroelectric plant in Upstate New York has been running continuously since 1897.

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