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AEP tops record for summer power usage

Kevin Castle • Aug 8, 2007 at 12:00 AM

Parents wait to pick up their children from Johnson Elementary Wednesday after the school lost its air conditioning. Students were sent home early. Erica Yoon photo.


KINGSPORT - Barry Bonds wasn't the only one breaking records on Tuesday. Thanks to soaring temperatures, electric customers in Kingsport and those along the Appalachian Power Co. service lines shattered an all-time summer peak demand.

The company confirmed the fact Wednesday morning, stating that at 3 p.m. on Tuesday it registered a kilowatt reading of 6,455 - surpassing the previous electric demand for summer usage established last August when the gauges hit 6,395 kilowatts.

"Considering the forecasted temperatures for the rest of the week, this could be temporary," said American Electric Power communications specialist Todd Burns. Appalachian Power is a unit of AEP.

Those 1 million customers mirrored neighbors just to the west and south of the Tri-Cities who rely on the Tennessee Valley Authority for their electric service.

TVA also reported record peak performance numbers with its 8 million customers cranking up air conditioners and other appliances to keep cool that pushed TVA meters to read 32,095 kilowatts at 6 p.m. Monday, according to a published report.

"It's a reflection of our customers' need and demand for electricity," said Burns. "Obviously, we've set records for two peaks in just eight months, one coming (Tuesday) and an all-time peak record we hit earlier in the year."

In February, AEP's all-time peak demand record was eclipsed when customers used 8,132 kilowatts during a cold snap that froze the Southeast.

With the switch flipped on two customer demand records in the passing seasons, Burns said that supplemental electricity purchased from adjoining utility districts in other states secures the company from having to institute rolling blackouts as a preservation effort for power.

"The way we operate in today's environment is our facilities are included in a larger region, and that transmission operator gives guidance on the available (power) capacity," said Burns.

"We look at the available capacity, and we weigh that with the means to get it to the customer through transmission or power line constraints. We have enough power plants (on the East Coast) to make sure our part of the country is taken care of. We have a number of projects being proposed to meet our customers' needs."

The electric company recently added wind-aided generation to help boost additional power supply, as AEP announced Wednesday an agreement to purchase 200 million watts of power from the Fowler Ridge Wind Farm in Benton County, Ind., to serve the Appalachian Power service area, which includes Virginia, West Virginia and Tennessee.

It marks the first commercial use of wind-powered energy for AEP, the company noted in its announcement.

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