When severe storms ravaged the LG&E and KU service territories on July 20, the company's E.W Brown plant in central Kentucky literally was in the center of the destruction. The thunderstorm, with heavy rains and straight-line winds measuring up to 85 miles per hour, ripped through the plant site and caused an estimated $1.5 million in damage.
Most notable was damage to the four cooling towers that cool water used in the generation process. Damage to the tower that serves Units 1 and 2 was superficial; however, damage to the two towers that serve Unit 3 was severe, and the unit, which is critical for summer generation, was forced off line.
The majority of the damage occurred when the wind twisted the protective shrouds on top of the tower and caused them to hit the fans. As a result, most of the shrouds, fans and drive shafts all were damaged beyond repair. In addition to the cooling towers, the wind damaged heavy-duty overhead rolling doors, a breaching cover on the new stack, and a cable tray on a pipe rack that leads to the ash pond. Brown's nearby solar facility, which hosts nearly 45,000 panels, was unaffected.
Fortunately, the day shift at Brown had ended when the storm hit, and the majority of employees were safely on their way home. Those who remained — primarily unit operators and other essential personnel — hunkered down to ride out the storm. The winds were so strong that it sucked open the heavy metal door to the unit control room, forcing an employee to physically hold it shut. The storm was quick and relentless, but so was the response to the damage.
"I'm very proud of the way our employees weathered the storm and that our management and engineering team reacted immediately and without hesitation," said Jeff Fraley, general manager, Tyrone and E.W. Brown. "Within an hour, our cooling tower contractor was mobilized and on-site by the next morning. We are working collaboratively to have the Unit 3 cooling tower operating by Aug. 3 with partial load, and fully operational by Aug. 11, so the unit can provide much-needed generation for the remainder of the summer. Repairs to other damage is ongoing, and we hope to be at full operation soon."