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Hopkinsville business shares experience with demand response 

A HEALTHY POWER GRID means a healthy power supply—that’s why Kentucky’s largest ethanol production facility is encouraging other industrial businesses served by the Tennessee Valley Authority to voluntarily reduce energy consumption during times of high electricity demand. 

“We have to have electricity, just like everyone else, to make things turn,” says Jon Stahl, plant manager at Commonwealth Agri-Energy. 

When TVA asked residents and businesses to voluntarily conserve energy during a record-breaking cold snap the morning of January 17, the Hopkinsville business was prepared. It participates in TVA’s Enel X Demand Response Program, which provides industrial customers recurring payments in return for agreeing to reduce electricity consumption during abnormally high electricity demand. 

“We have seen a mutually beneficial relationship in terms of being able to assist the grid when there’s heavy demand, and there’s also a function to it that allows our operators to be more conscientious of our own electrical usage here on site,” Stahl says. 

In a high-demand event, the company can normally cut back on its energy usage by 10–15% with little notice, he says.

Owned by Hopkinsville Elevator Co., the plant employs 37 workers and grinds 16 million bushels of corn annually, producing about 50 million gallons of ethanol, high quality alcohol for topical/industrial solutions, feedstock for poultry and cattle, CO2 for carbonic beverages and dry ice, and corn oil. 

“We monitor a number of efficiencies in our process anyway,” Stahl says. “This just kind of falls lock and step within the programs we already have in-house.”

Often the effort to conserve energy is coordinated and intentional, to avoid certain activities during peak power demand hours that make a real difference. Stahl hopes to see more industries willing to partner with TVA on the rare occasion power demand is spiking across its service area. 

“TVA has to meet the power demand for residents, businesses and industries regardless of the weather being good or bad,” Stahl says. “And with us having some flexibility within our process to be able to assist them through these curtailment programs, we feel it’s advantageous for both parties at times.” 

Commonwealth Agri-Energy also has a good partner in their local power cooperative—Pennyrile Electric.

“When extreme weather comes along, they’re kind of the local ‘boots on the ground’ that can give us feedback on what might be coming,” Stahl explains. “They’ve been a wonderful partner for us alongside TVA, and we don’t take it for granted.” 

ADAM MAY is a media senior specialist for TVA.

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