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TVA Rebuilds Tornado-Ravaged Transformers

TVA’s Power Service Shops is a jack of all voltages when it comes to refurbishing obsolete transmission equipment, or in this case, 61 residential transformers that were damaged by the Kentucky tornados in December. It’s an odd request, especially when the cost of repairing a small transformer is often more expensive than buying a new one.

But in the days of COVID supply-chain hurdles that are affecting everything from parts to paper towels, buying mass numbers of new transformers is a logistics challenge that could take weeks, if not months to resolve.

That’s why TVA is now in the business of working to repair transformers for three Kentucky LPCs. It’s part of our commitment to Powerful Partnerships, and when TVA asked how we could help, restoring a pile of wind-downed transformers became a priority.

“After a storm that big, none of the LPCs have any spares laying around,” says Senior Manager Rusty Weaver, PSS Transformer Services. “They’re in crisis mode, and we’re just helping them rebuild and restock these old transformers so that they’re prepared for February’s ice storms.”

According to Weaver, when a power pole hits the ground, its transformer has to be tested before it can be returned to service. And many times, there’s water damage, which requires the transformers to be drained and dried inside giant ovens that are designed to dry powerplant motors.

“The ovens are large enough to drive a forklift in them,” Weaver says. “Yeah, Keebler would be impressed with all the cookies we could bake at one time.”

Once the components are dried and tested, salvageable transformers are rebuilt and then refilled with fresh oil. Of the 61 transformers that were sent to PSS, 45 were refurbished.

Weaver expects the last batch of transformers to be shipped to Kentucky by mid-February.

“I am always proud of our PSS folks who answer the call to help communities in tragic need,” says General Manager Doug Keeling, Power Service Shops. “Our hearts go out to all who have been and continue to be affected by the storms in December, and we hope the communities get back on their feet as soon as possible.

“We want to thank all the folks involved here at the PSS who canceled their annual leave and pulled together to make this happen. Our workforce is second to none.”