GRDA and the benefits of hydroelectricity

Power for Progress…
A weekly column from the Grand River Dam Authority

Resting on a solid foundation …  Crews moved dirt and rock to prepare the way for the construction of Pensacola Dam in 1938. The dam would be Oklahoma’s first hydroelectric facility and the foundation for the many low-cost, reliable electricity benefits GRDA has been able to provide to Oklahoma ever since.

Resting on a solid foundation … Crews moved dirt and rock to prepare the way for the construction of Pensacola Dam in 1938. The dam would be Oklahoma’s first hydroelectric facility and the foundation for the many low-cost, reliable electricity benefits GRDA has been able to provide to Oklahoma ever since.

In recent weeks, the Grand River Dam Authority has announced its decision to construct a combined cycle gas plant on-site at its existing Coal Fired Complex. Along with that, GRDA has also announced that the new name of that complex will be “Grand River Energy Center”, a name that not only reflects the broadened mission of the facility but also pays homage to GRDA’s roots and the foundation of its electric generation: Oklahoma’s Grand River.

Even as the Authority moves ahead with this gas plant (which has the potential to be the most efficient of its kind in the entire nation), and also begins the long process to retrofit components on its Unit 2 coal fired plant (to continue reliable operations for years to come), it’s important to note the important role that renewable hydroelectric generation has always played at GRDA.

From its very beginnings, the Grand River Dam Authority has been in the hydroelectricity business. After all, Pensacola Dam – Oklahoma’s first hydroelectric facility — was built to harness the waters of the Grand River, and the river has produced a lot of megawatts of electricity for the state of Oklahoma in nearly 75 years of service.

Of course, Pensacola is just one part of the hydroelectric history. GRDA also built Robert S. Kerr Dam in the early 1960s and the Salina Pumped Storage Project (SPSP) in the late 1960s/early 1970s. All together, these resources play a role in meeting the electrical demand of thousands of Oklahomans all across the state, and its all done with clean, renewable hydroelectric power.

According to the United States Geological Survey (USGS) hydroelectric facilities, like GRDA’s, “fit the concept of renewable energy” because these facilities use “running water, without reducing its quantity, to produce electricity.” At GRDA, that water is used repeatedly as it flows down the Grand River, through Pensacola Dam and Kerr Dam, and also as it is pumped up and stored at the SPSP.

However, the USGS states there are other benefits to producing electricity with the power of falling water. Here are a few:

• Hydroelectricity increases the stability and reliability of electricity systems because hydroelectric generator units, like those inside GRDA dams, can be started very quickly. In fact, “energy generated by hydroelectric installations can be injected into the electricity system faster than that of any other energy source” says the USGS. That is certainly true at GRDA, where a beneficial mixture of coal, natural gas, wind and hydroelectric generation resources also helps maintain system reliability.

• Hydroelectricity contributes to the storage of drinking water. Did you know that GRDA lakes serve as storage for 50 Oklahoma municipal water systems and rural water districts, including Tulsa? Grand, Hudson and the W.R. Holway Reservoir (SPSP) all serve as water storage reservoirs to help meet the needs of thousands of Oklahomans. Without the presence of hydroelectric plants, that storage might not be available.

• Hydroelectric power helps develop the entire region. Prior to Pensacola Dam, the surrounding region was rugged and rural. Today, that region is the heart of a large and thriving tourism and recreation industry that relies on GRDA lakes. Of course, the abundance of low-cost, reliable electricity, produced by GRDA, helps support that thriving region too.

There are other benefits, of course, but these are just a few of the reasons why the GRDA story is really a “power for progress” story for Oklahoma. At GRDA, we are proud of the role our employees play, everyday, to keep the power flowing to our Oklahoma neighbors.

Headquartered in Vinita, GRDA is Oklahoma’s state-owned electric utility; fully funded by revenues from electric and water sales instead of taxes. Directly or indirectly, GRDA’s low-cost, reliable electricity touches75 of 77 counties in the state. At no cost to taxpayers, GRDA also manages 70,000 surface acres of lakes in the state, including Grand Lake, Lake Hudson and the W.R. Holway Reservoir. Today, GRDA’s 500 employees continue to produce the same “power for progress” that has benefited the state for 75 years.

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