By STEVEN NALLEY
The Tennessee Valley Authority plans to build a 14-mile, 161-kilovolt transmission line between substations in Catalpa Creek and Starkville, providing local industries with an auxiliary power source and posing new opportunities for economic development in Oktibbeha County.
Greater Starkville Development Partnership President Jon Maynard said this transmission line is expected to begin serving the area in March 2013. The line would travel through Clayton Village toward Starkville’s substation, he said, coming in close proximity to the Thad Cochran Research Park.
“It gives us virtually unlimited and redundant power in our research park,” Maynard said, “which allows us to attract certain businesses we have not been able to attract before, such as advanced manufacturers with high energy needs and data centers.”
Maynard said data centers are companies with large banks of servers and processors which exchange information, building the foundation for cloud computing. He said data centers are very desirable in the current economy for several reasons, one of which is the cleanliness they offer compared with other industries generating comparable capital.
“(Data centers are) very high-tech and capital-intensive,” Maynard said. “They buy computers that age out and then buy more. What that means for the local economy is it creates taxable infrastructure. I see them as a good fit for the park, particularly the High Performance Computing Collaboratory.”
An environmental assessment report TVA issued in 2010 for the project explains the need for the new 161-kv line. Currently, it says, four 4-County substations draw electricity from a single 11-mile West Columbus-SeverCorr 161-kv line: Golden Triangle, Catalpa Creek, Carbonic and Columbus Modified Fluff. If the West Columbus-SeverCorr line fails, the report says all the industries supported by this line would lose electrical service.
“Additionally, because these industries are served by a single-line source, any necessary transmission line maintenance is extremely difficult to schedule, since any disconnection of the line to allow upgrading or repair would affect these industries,” the report said. “Because of the size of the electrical load served by this transmission line, no possible modifications to the 4-County EPA distributor system are possible that would support this load.”
The report says the new line would also make the Golden Triangle cities’ power supply more reliable because it would connect their four power sources to a new switching station in Clayton Village.
“A new switching station with four interconnections and the second transmission line to service the SeverCorr Switching Station would provide a second power source to support the 260-megawatt industrial load, as well as provide TVA power system improvements,” the report says. “These improvements would also provide TVA with the capability to perform transmission line maintenance without affecting service.”