Ky teachers learn about electricity during Big Sandy plant tour
Teachers tour Kentucky Power's Big Sandy Plant in Louisa as part of the National Energy Education Development project's summer energy tour.

LOUISA, Ky. – Kentucky teachers, as part of the National Energy Education Development (NEED) project, visited Kentucky Power’s Big Sandy Power Plant recently to peel back the curtain on operations at the plant and better understand how some of the electricity they use is generated.

The NEED project works with Kentucky teachers to promote energy education and conservation to students in local schools. Karen Reagor, director of the Kentucky NEED project, helped set up this Energy Tour for Educators. The tour allows teachers to visit energy sites in Kentucky like Big Sandy to better understand the processes and real world applications to pass onto their students as part of the NEED curriculum.

“For most people, the generation of electricity is magic,” Reagor said. “The tour helps teachers understand how it’s generated and the resources that are used, but then to connect that with the amount of electricity they use at home or in their classroom helps put the entire process into perspective.”

In addition to the Big Sandy plant, teachers also toured the East Kentucky Power Cooperative solar farm in Winchester and the Green Valley Environmental Landfill in Ashland. They also visited the Barthell Coal Camp to look at the history of coal camps in Kentucky and ARQ in Corbin to see how hydrocarbons are extracted from coal waste to blend with liquid fuels.

“One of the highlights of the tour is to see multiple types of generation facilities,” Reagor said. “It gives teachers a better understanding of what it takes to supply electricity to their classrooms.”

At Big Sandy, teachers wore closed-toe shoes and hard hats that were supplied as part of the energy tour. After a safety briefing about potential hazards they may encounter during the tour and a home-cooked meal to fuel up, they were ready for the tour.

Teachers were divided into groups of eight to 10 so they could provide feedback and ask questions during the walk through. They were given an up-close look at the generating turbines, natural gas pipes, operator’s room and the Big Sandy Unit 1 cooling tower.

The group asked questions about the conversion of Big Sandy Unit 1 to natural gas, the decommissioning of Big Sandy Unit 2, and the mixture of fossil fuels and renewables used in Kentucky Power’s generation needs.

David Mell, plant energy production superintendent, said “The decommissioning of Big Sandy Unit 2 and the conversion of Big Sandy Unit 1 to natural gas were to lessen the expense on the customer after EPA regulations became more stringent on coal emissions.”

Reagor, who said she has visited the Big Sandy Plant many times over the past 15 years, said the most interesting part for her was seeing the transition over time to the current natural gas fueled facility.

“Consumers want reliable electricity at a reasonable rate,” she said. “Often times, what we see or hear can be misleading and to see the process of what it takes to get electricity helps the teachers share that message with their students and other customers.”

Big Sandy Plant Manager Paul Massie said educating the public on the utility industry, especially our teachers who are educating our children, is very important.

“We rely on electricity for many of our basic needs,” Massie said. “It was a pleasure to host Kentucky teachers and discuss the critical role electricity plays in our everyday lives.”

While Big Sandy is operating successfully as a gas-fired plant, about 80 percent of Kentucky Power’s electricity is still generated by burning coal at the Mitchell Plant in West Virginia and the Rockport Plant in Indiana. Kentucky Power is part of a regional transmission organization called PJM that coordinates the movement of wholesale electricity in Kentucky and surrounding states. Kentucky Power works with this grid operator to sell any excess electricity or purchase extra power when needed on the open market.

Customers can log on to www.PJM.com to see the current mix of generation fuels and renewables on the transmission grid. They also can learn more about Kentucky Power at www.kentuckypower.com.

Kentucky Power, with headquarters in Ashland, provides service to about 168,000 customers in 20 eastern Kentucky counties, including Boyd, Breathitt, Carter, Clay, Elliott, Floyd, Greenup, Johnson, Knott, Lawrence, Leslie, Letcher, Lewis, Magoffin, Martin, Morgan, Owsley, Perry, Pike and Rowan. Kentucky Power is an operating company in the AEP system, one of the largest electric utilities in the U.S., delivering electricity and custom energy solutions to 5.4 million regulated customers in 11 states.

Teachers tour Kentucky Power's Big Sandy Plant in Louisa as part of the National Energy Education Development project's summer energy tour.

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