NASHVILLE, Tenn. (April 21, 2017) – More than 100 hydropower experts from the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers, Tennessee Valley Authority, Southeastern Power Administration, and private power supply companies benefited from an exchange of information during the 40th Annual Joint Hydropower Conference April 19-20 at the Inn at Opryland.
Lt. Col. Stephen Murphy, U.S. Army Corps of Engineers Nashville District commander, welcomed everyone to Music City and noted how the district is working with its partners in the room to address aging infrastructure through a 20-year, $1.2 billion program to rehabilitate all 28 hydropower units within the Cumberland River Basin.
The Corps of Engineers owns 25 percent of the nation’s hydropower infrastructure. Of that, 10 percent – nine of 75 hydropower plants, are in the Nashville District. The district’s hydropower units are capable of producing 3.4 billion kilowatts of power that is marketed across an eight-state area to four million customers.
Murphy said hydropower in general provides dependable renewable energy, which makes electricity more affordable during peak usage periods of the day, and that translates into lower electricity bills for Americans.
“We produce about 4.5 percent of the hydropower energy that the Corps produces,” Murphy said. “So it’s a very big deal, very important to us in Nashville that we do this job and we do it very well.”
A lot of the experts in attendance were charged with sharing information on different topics, and were available during the breaks for networking opportunities.
Brandon Bouwman, electrical engineer with the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers Hydropower Design Center in Portland, Ore., shared information about hydro generator model validation to comply with North American Electric Reliability Corporation, which enforces reliability standards.
“It’s become a big deal recently,” Bouwman said. “It’s something that has been in the background for a while but is now coming to the forefront for a lot of power operators.”
Bouwman honed in on model validation for reliability standards. He said while hydropower model validation is required by NERC, from an engineering standpoint it is essential for making sure the power systems are accurate and up to date.
Greg Brown, plant manager with the Georgia Power Company, gave a technical briefing on a project to add access tunnels into the turbines’ confined spaces at Lloyd Shoals Dam Powerhouse in Jackson, Ga. Sam Turner also provided information about a generator rewind at Carters Project and Tyler Carter talked about a generator bay floor replacement project at the John H. Kerr Dam Powerhouse in Boydton, Va. Harold Pickett, North Georgia Hydro, even shared information on how to use technology to improve the effectiveness of security cameras at hydropower facilities.
Daniel Rabon, U.S. Department of Energy, shared the latest information about the department’s hydropower program; Jamie James, Nashville District’s program manager, Customer Funded Section 212 Hydropower Rehabilitation Program, talked about the Cumberland River System Master Plan; and Jim Carter, Cooper River Rediversion Project, covered maintenance issues being addressed at the St. Stephen Switchyard.
Alex Mosely, general manager of TVA Hydro generation, gave a briefing about an arc flash event; and Steve Ernst, HDC, talked about SCADA for hydropower. Tony Coaxum, Southern Company Hydro Services, talked about how maintenance personnel replaced a generator cooler at Bartlett’s Ferry Dam in Georgia; and Nick Wilson, U.S. Army Corps of Engineers Savannah District, spoke about the rehabilitation of the Philpott Powerhouse switchgear.
For the first time at Joint Hydropower, leaders joined a panel where they gave comments and took questions from the various hydropower experts. Kamau Sadiki, U.S. Army Corps of Engineers Hydropower Business Line manager; Ken Legg, SEPA administrator; Andy Shepherd, engineer in the Southern Company Control Center; and Mosely made up the panel.
In working to address aging infrastructure, Sadiki said it’s important to ensure hydropower reliability is at a high and sustainable level because it is the nation’s asset and it benefits everyone. To do this, it’s essential to establish strong positive relationships with customers who pay the bills and the agencies that recoup the money spent to operate and maintain facilities, he said.
“So I want to make sure that we develop those strong relationships and go in as a team and address all of these challenges that we face,” Sadiki said.
Legg explained that it is SEPA’s role to market the power generated at Corps of Engineers projects, including the nine in the Cumberland River watershed. SEPA markets hydropower from 22 projects to customers in 11 states, he said.
“Our role is considerably different than the role of the folks in the plant that is generating the power,” Legg said. “We sell the power at rates that are designed to break even. We are a cost-based organization and our role is to repay the investment the government has made in these hydropower facilities and the portion of the projects, lakes and reservoirs associated with that power production. We share the joint costs in that.”
Legg said in recent years SEPA has entered into agreements with power generation entities to address aging infrastructure to help rehab hydropower units. In the Nashville District very little renovation could be accomplished until the rehabilitation agreements were made, he added.
“We’re working very closely with the Nashville District and all of these Cumberland projects and we’re making progress,” Legg said. “Those folks have gone in and looked at things in a more holistic approach, looking at everything that needs to be done knowing it all can’t get done at once – but trying to prioritize and put together a schedule.”
Mosely said TVA operates and maintains 29 conventional hydro dams and one pump storage station that provides low cost and reliable power in the Tennessee River Basin. TVA also has gas, coal, nuclear and other renewable power assets, he added.
“To make sure we’re able to do that mission we’ve got to have our assets ready and available,” Mosely said. “With aging assets it’s a tough thing to manage and balance.”
TVA has 109 conventional hydro turbines – 54 of those machines have not had any major overhauls or maintenance, Mosely stressed.
Shepherd said the Southern Company provides SEPA transmission lines to get the clean and cheap renewable hydropower from the Corps of Engineer dams to their customers.
“And we actually share those customers with SEPA,” Shepherd said. “Those utilities and co-ops certainly buy as much of the Corps of Engineers energy as they can.”
The panel provided a lot of good feedback and there were lots of valuable presentations, but participants also took advantage of the opportunity to tour Old Hickory Dam in Old Hickory, Tenn., at Cumberland River mile 216.2 in Sumner and Davidson Counties. The Corps began construction of the project in January 1952 and completed it for full beneficial use in December 1957 with the placement of the final hydroelectric power unit in operation.
The staff at Old Hickory escorted the hydropower experts on top of the dam, into the hydropower control room, and throughout the power plant. The group got a close up look at the four hydroelectric generators with Kaplan adjustable blade turbines. The total plant capacity is 100 megawatts, which is enough power to heat or cool approximately 20,133 homes.
Pickett joined the tour and really liked visiting the control room and interacting with Lisa Barker, Power Plant shift operator, about the plant’s cameras and how they are utilized.
“I got to see how your control room is set up,” Pickett said. “I got some ideas the way some of the screens are set up for the operator to see. They were very convenient. That was good for me.”
He said the whole event was great because of the presentations about the various projects at different power plants, and he appreciated the panel discussion and access to leaders’ perspectives and points of view.
“I thought that was good because I heard a lot of information that I probably wouldn’t have gotten to ask about,” Pickett said.
Virgil Hobbs III, SEPA’s assistant administrator for Finance and Marketing, remarked that the first Joint Hydropower event was in 1977 when he was in sixth grade. He first attended in 1992 and said the event is great for building relationships and for professional development.
(The public can obtain news, updates and information from the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers Nashville District on the district’s website at www.lrn.usace.army.mil, on Facebook at http://www.facebook.com/nashvillecorps, and on Twitter at http://www.twitter.com/nashvillecorps.)