Power for Progress…
A weekly column from the Grand River Dam Authority
The Grand River Dam Authority has been in the hydroelectricity business since the first megawatts of electricity were created at Pensacola Dam in 1940. In fact, the legislation that created GRDA in 1935 charged the utility with constructing dams along the Grand River “for the purposes of hydroelectric production and flood control.” Not only was Pensacola Dam the first hydroelectric facility in Oklahoma but its presence also helped transform the landscape by creating Grand Lake.
Like the lake itself, the abundance of low-cost, reliable electricity produced by the dam also helped boost the area economy. In fact, roughly two decades later, GRDA built another hydroelectric facility on the Grand River – Robert S. Kerr Dam (Lake Hudson). Finally, before the 1960s had ended GRDA has also finished the first phase of the Salina Pumped Storage Project, a hydroelectric facility on the Saline Creek arm of Lake Hudson.
By the end of the 1970s GRDA was responding to a looming energy shortage as well as high demands for its power when it began construction of the Coal Fired Complex. By the early 1980s the facility was on-line and GRDA had entered the thermal generation, going from a small producer of hydroelectricity to a regional power supplier as it more than tripled its electric generation capability.
It would be nearly 30 more years before GRDA would need to add more electric generation to its portfolio. Although there were times during those years when it looked at the possibility of expanding its hydro operations or even bolstering its coal generation, the Authority would finally settle on natural gas generation in 2008.
In September of that year, GRDA completed the purchase of a 36 percent interest in the Redbud Plant, a natural gas power plant located near Luther, Oklahoma. GRDA’s share of the 1,230-megawatt (MW) adds approximately 435 MW of additional generation to the hydroelectric and coal mixture it has had in place since the early 1980s. Oklahoma Gas & Electric (OG&E) owns 51 percent of the facility while the Oklahoma Municipal Power Authority (OMPA) owns 13 percent.
The addition of the Redbud plant substantially reduces GRDA’s reliance on costly market purchases to meet customer energy demands and also significantly improves GRDA’s generation reliability. Redbud, and its natural gas generation, has provided greater diversity to the Authority’s low-cost hydroelectric and coal fired generation portfolio.
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 serves nearly 500,000 homes in Oklahoma and stretches into 75 of 77 counties in the state. At no cost to Oklahoma 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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- Justin Alberty
GRDA Corporate Communications Director