Millions of megawatt-hours, one true purpose

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

The list of the nation’s largest publicly-owned electric utilities always includes the Grand River Dam Authority.

A powerful purpose … GRDA may produce millions of megawatt-hours of low-cost, reliable electricity each year, but the singular purpose for all that effort – powering Oklahoma – always stays the same.

A powerful purpose … GRDA may produce millions of megawatt-hours of low-cost, reliable electricity each year, but the singular purpose for all that effort – powering Oklahoma – always stays the same.

GRDA is there because of diverse mixture of coal, hydroelectric, natural gas and even wind sources that have been developed throughout the utility’s 75-plus years of service to Oklahoma. In a typical year, that GRDA mixture combines to produce approximately 8 million megawatt-hours (MWh) of electricity; enough power for the Authority to be ranked as the 16th largest publicly-owned utility (by generation) in the United States.

When you consider that just one MWh is enough electricity to supply 1,000 average homes for a one full hour, the 8 million MWh mark takes on even greater significance. Not only does GRDA power reach across Oklahoma, but it also goes into other states, helping to meet the electricity demands across a large geographical area. What started out in one hydroelectric powerhouse on the Grand River in 1940 has now become a major supplier in a four-state region.

Of course, generating and delivering such a large amount of electricity round-the-clock is a team effort that includes a workforce at multiple facilities, performing hundreds of different tasks. There are coal trains to unload, mechanical systems to maintain, steam and hydroelectric generators to operate, meters to read, power lines to patrol and many other tasks that are part of the chain to transform the energy of falling water or the potential in a piece of coal into the electricity that powers your home.

Electricity is the only real-time commodity bought and sold on the market and it cannot be stored. That means even as GRDA works constantly to produce the power it must constantly balance supply and demand. There can be no such thing as over-stocked shelves or back orders in this industry. This balance is important not only for customer needs, but also to help insure the reliable operation of the nation’s electric power grid. Because GRDA operates a significant portion of that grid, it must comply with the regulations of oversight agencies such as the North American Electric Reliability Corporation (NERC) and the Southwest Power Pool (SPP).

To accomplish this, there is a staff of NERC-certified employees who oversee the generation, transmission and accounting of every single megawatt of power across its system. That power may come from coal, water, natural gas or wind, but it always passes under the watchful eye of Team GRDA personnel who have planned for it, produced it, tracked it and delivered it.

Ultimately, it reaches into Oklahoma homes and businesses, where, without too much thought, a switch is flipped or a button is pushed and the one true purpose of the electricity – powering Oklahoma – is finally realized. Yet even then, the process to produce more is always underway at GRDA.

# # #