Power plants are now going virtual.
Forget the old model of smoke stacks and coal, in Anderson County, the need for power happens with the click of a button.
The Clinton Utilities Board just opened a brand new control room at their facility in Clinton.
Assistant General Manager, Ernie Bowles, said, "This is overall our control center. This is where all of our operations activities take place both routinely and during emergencies."
In the brand new control room, operators can now better control power distribution, fix outages quicker, and know at all times where every CUB truck is located, "We have a lot more tools in the tool kit that we can use now with a room this size. We can use the tools to help our customers get service back."
Something else in the room which remains invisible to the naked eye, is a virtual power plant.
"It is the implementation of available technology that saves money," explained CUB General Manager, Greg Fay.
Fay said besides doing their normal duties in the control room, if the Tennessee Valley Authority needs help with power, CUB is there with the click of a button, no bricks or mortar needed.
"There are times when TVA buys power for 17 to 18 times more than what they sell it to us for. So, TVA is trying to get out of what they call the "very peak." So, TVA is trying to take a mountain peak and make it a rolling hill," said Fay.
Clinton Utilities Board was the first to activate the Virtual Power Plant this summer. Since then, four other utility boards have been put on the list for use.
During extremely hot or cold days, sometimes TVA must buy power from outside the region or turn on a power plant in order to supply enough energy.
In order to avoid high costs for them and for you, TVA can ask CUB for help.
"When TVA calls, we call that a "dispatchable event." We can turn on the little power plant and actually lower the peak on the system and we can actually do that within seconds," said Bowles.
CUB reduces their customers voltage in their homes, thanks to smart meters on every home in the CUB area.
That extra power goes on the grid and TVA can use it. Overall, it reduces costs to everyone.
Mike Bradley with TVA Communications, said, "This techonology is invisible to the 30,000 customers in the Clinton system and it helps TVA meet peak demand for the entire system."
Since April 2011, CUB customers have saved $800,000 with the introduction of this virtual plant.
It's a complex system, but put simply, it's new technology saving rate payers money.
Several cities have the smart meter system and have signed up to be in the "Virtual Power Plant" pilot program. You can find out more on the TVA website.