Thursday, September 3, 2015

TVA Pumped Storage Plant At Raccoon Mountain

Our last afternoon at Raccoon Mountain happened to be Lexie and Ozzie's bath day. We followed up those baths with a ride in the truck for three reasons... 1. They like riding 2. They were pretty unhappy about the baths, and 3. Nature's hair dryer works best.

Still damp and unhappy  from baths, Lexie (L) and Ozzie (R) enjoy a ride in the truck. 
Leaving the campground, we took a left and headed upward onto Raccoon Mountain. The truck temperature gauge showed 92 sweltering degrees. With windows open the dogs' hair dried fast. We made a right turn, following the signs to Raccoon Mountain's TVA Pumped Storage Plant, not knowing what we'd find. As we ascended and the tree shade fell across the roadway, the temperature gauge started to drop.

It's hard to miss the TVA Pumped Storage Plant. It is a hydroelectric facility built between 1970 and 1978 that serves as a storage tank, where, when water demand is low, water is pumped into the reservoir on top of Raccoon Mountain from Nickajack Lake (part of the Tennessee River) below.  Then, when water demand peaks, the reverse occurs... water is released through a tunnel that was drilled down through the center of Raccoon Mountain. The water drives several huge generators inside Raccoon Mountain.

Pretty big stuff.
The reservoir covers 528 acres. There's a 230' high, 8,500' long dam that turned out to be the largest rockfill dam the TVA ever built. The whole place is like being in a James Bond movie -- everything is huge.

This storage plant was closed from 2012 to 2014 for some $90 million in repairs as a precaution because of cracks in the rotors inside the generators' magnetic field. Similar issues caused a catastrophic failure in 2009 at a pumped storage plant in Austria.

Fixing the rotors at Raccoon Mountain cost taxpayers $55 million. While the plant was down, TVA installed a 500,000-pound power transformer bringing the total repair bill to $90 million.

A break to read about the plant and let the dogs take a walk.
The Visitors Center is still closed but we enjoyed a nice ride around the perimeter of the resevoir and some nice overlooks of the river and city.

From atop Raccoon Mountain 

We're still no good at taking selfies, but we keep trying.  
Until September 11, 2001, visitors could take an elevator 106 stories down into the mountain to see the plant's workings but that's another freedom taken away by terrorists. 

We will leave this area tomorrow. We're coming upon Labor Day Weekend and the campground was already booked when we arrived some ten days ago.  From here we want to drive into the mountains of North Carolina... if we can find a place that's not already full. 

1 comment:

  1. You said "when water demand is low" and "then, when water demand peaks". If you replaced the word "water" with the word "electrical", then you'd have the correct story. Its all about electricity, not water. I got to visit Racoon Mt back in the 70's. They used to have a cable tram that took sightseers and hang-glider pilots to the top. One evening there was a concert at the campground at the base of the mt. that featured picker John Hartford. Is the tram ride still there? Thanks for your interesting accounts