Rody Blevins’ new backup generators will represent the closing of an old loop.

The veteran CEO at Volunteer EC, Decatur, Tenn., has ordered two 750-kV, gas-fired generators from Caterpillar through Chattanooga, Tenn.-based Stowers Machinery. He plans to have them up and running at the cooperative’s two largest service centers, in Cleveland, Tenn., and Crossville, Tenn., by October.

Blevins said Volunteer EC is paying about $440,000 per unit – a savings of between 15 percent and 20 percent, per the new deal made by Seven States Power Corp. and the manufacturer.

“We were pleased with that final price,” Blevins said.

The new generators – and a 420-kV unit Blevins had installed at the cooperative’s main offices two years ago – bring full circle a plan Blevins said was launched nearly 20 years ago.

“We started a project to rebuild most of our system,” he said. “The vision is to update all our technical platforms and have the entire system digital by 2020. This is the culmination of that effort.

“Our goal is to always try to improve reliability for our membership, and this is one more step in that direction,” Blevins said. “The generator at our main campus is designed to run 20,000 hours before it needs any maintenance. It backs up the entire campus – all the IT, the 24-hour dispatch and call center, everything.”

Blevins said the new Cleveland and Crossville units will also support Volunteer EC’s fiber-based communications network.

“That’s our entire network – almost all our substations, all our AMI, SCADA and remote devices,” he said. “It’s critical to maintain those communications.”

And the generators won’t serve only as backup power; Blevins said the generator at the cooperative’s main campus runs – and the new units will run – at peak-demand times.

“Those peak-demand savings will be such that these units will pay for themselves in five or six years,” he said.