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A Timeless Power

TVA Hydroelectric is a Staple of Past, Present and Future Energy Generation

On a hot August day, Chris Quarles pauses briefly as a signaling tone echoes through the cave at Raccoon Mountain Pumped-Storage Hydro facility.

A light flashes on unit 2 as operations prepares to bring it online, ready to produce power for the grid.

A rush of water echoes off the rock walls as the gates begin to open. The circuit breaker closes, then the rushing sound fades as the water turns to a steady flow.

Unit 2 is now producing power on the grid to keep houses cool and the lights on.

Quarles, a senior operator at Raccoon Mountain

Reliable and Renewable

That’s a snapshot of the many wonders of Raccoon Mountain, just one of 30 power-producing hydroelectric plants TVA oversees.

Hydroelectric power is at the core of TVA’s history.

Since 1933, TVA’s dams have been serving the region with flood control, navigation improvements and power generation.

“Hydroelectric power goes back to TVA’s first days,” said Quarles, a senior operator at Raccoon Mountain. “A spinoff of the other benefits is that power could be produced in this way.”

Hydroelectric energy, which served as the original source of electrification for the region, acts as a vital segment of the production fleet today.  

“Hydropower provides clean, low-cost energy to the Valley,” Suzanne Biddle, TVA general manager of Hydro Generation, said. “It’s a very reliable form of power generation and it fits perfectly with TVA’s mission of service to the region.”

Ready for Dispatch

Hydroelectric power is a flexible option for producing energy – it’s not always online and it can be switched on when needed.

TVA often uses its hydroelectric plants during peak times, such as extreme weather swings in winter and summer. For this reason, Quarles and his team must be prepared to switch a unit on at the ring of a phone.

“It makes me the most proud to work in hydro when we are able to help TVA maintain system balance,” Quarles said. “We’re there to provide energy when the region needs it most.”

With such a unique and complex resource, the teams at TVA’s hydroelectric plants must always be prepared to adapt and adjust during a day of work.

TVA’s hydroelectric plants are flexible enough to adjust to changes in weather patterns, upstream and downstream flows and power demand across the region.

Luckily, in his 19 years of employment with TVA, a challenge has never turned Quarles away.

“My favorite part of the job would be the challenges,” Quarles said. “You can always come to work with a plan, but a lot of times that plan is changed by circumstances. It stays interesting. It never gets stale or old.”

With an ever-growing need for clean renewable energy sources, Quarles and all of TVA’s hydroelectric crews continue to work efficiently to support the fleet.

Hydroelectric power is a triumphant part of TVA’s 90-year history.

But it’s not a thing of the past – it’s a staple for power generation today and well beyond.

“We plan to run all of our hydro generation assets for the long term and continue to contribute to TVA’s carbon reduction goals of the future,” Biddle said. “Hydro is TVA’s forever asset.”

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Visit the Hydroelectric Power page to learn how TVA uses water to generate electricity.  

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