NASHVILLE – A new law that protects Tennesseans from improperly installed electric generation equipment was signed into law by Gov. Bill Lee on Tuesday, April 20.
The law requires owners of generators, solar panels, wind turbines or other electric generation equipment that is connected to the power distribution grid to notify their local power company and to install an automatic disconnect switch that is accessible to the local utility.
Gov. Lee, a longtime friend of electric co-ops, expressed his support for the legislation. “Lineworkers power Tennessee, and this legislation will ensure they stay safe on the job,” says Gov. Lee. “Our homes, hospitals, farms, factories and everything in between depend on well-managed infrastructure, and this law is an important part of that.”
To protect the public from danger, the local electric distribution grid is designed to interrupt the flow of power to an area when the system detects damage such as a pole broken during an automobile accident or power lines damaged during a storm.
“Unfortunately, privately owned generation equipment that is connected to the grid might continue generating power onto the grid if it is not properly installed,” says Mike Knotts, vice president of government affairs for the Tennessee Electric Cooperative Association, “and this could create a very dangerous situation for the public, first responders or utility lineworkers.”
“If you don’t know where these electric producing instruments are, you could have a tragic accident,” said Rep. Patsy Hazlewood, sponsor of the legislation, from the House floor on March 11.
Tennessee’s electric cooperatives championed the law throughout this year’s legislative session. “We appreciate the General Assembly and Gov. Lee for sharing our concern for public safety,” says David Callis, executive vice president and general manager of the Tennessee Electric Cooperative Association.
Owners of grid-connected generation equipment should contact their local electric utility for more information.