The latest “first”

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

Throughout its 79 year history, the Grand River Dam Authority has become accustomed to being a part of some significant “firsts” in Oklahoma.

GRDA Firsts … GRDA’s Salina Pumped Storage Project (upper left) was the first pumped storage project in Oklahoma, while Pensacola Dam (bottom) was Oklahoma’s first hydroelectric facility. Adding to that lists of firsts will be a combined cycle natural gas unit (artist’s rendering, upper right). Though not the first combined cycle unit in the state, GRDA’s unit will be the first of its model type in the western hemisphere when it begins operations in March 2017.

GRDA Firsts … GRDA’s Salina Pumped Storage Project (upper left) was the first pumped storage project in Oklahoma, while Pensacola Dam (bottom) was Oklahoma’s first hydroelectric facility. Adding to that lists of firsts will be a combined cycle natural gas unit (artist’s rendering, upper right). Though not the first combined cycle unit in the state, GRDA’s unit will be the first of its model type in the western hemisphere when it begins operations in March 2017.

For example, Pensacola Dam was the first hydroelectric generation facility in the state. GRDA built it between 1938 and 1940 to harness the waters of the Grand River for electricity production and to create Grand Lake. Today, nearly 75 years later, that “first” facility continues to be a powerful, economic development asset. It still provides low-cost, renewable electricity while still holding back the waters that serve as a foundation for a thriving recreation and tourism industry.

Another Oklahoma first was the Salina Pumped Storage Project (SPSP), built by GRDA in the late 1960s. The SPSP is a unique facility that utilizes six hydroelectric turbines that can operate both as generators or pumps. In the latter mode, water can be pumped from the Saline Creek arm of Lake Hudson into an upper reservoir (W.R. Holway Reservoir), where it is stored until generation is needed. Then the water can be released back through the units, now operating as generators, to produce hydroelectricity for GRDA customers. The SPSP is the only project of this type in Oklahoma and, in fact, only a few had been built in the United States when GRDA moved forward with this project nearly 50 years ago. Some said it was an “experimental facility” that would “break the Authority.” However, like Pensacola Dam, it continues to play an important role in GRDA’s overall generation portfolio.

Now, it is time for yet another “first.” On March 21, at a special contract signing ceremony in Tulsa, an agreement was finalized for Mitsubishi Hitachi Power Systems Americas (MHPSA) to construct a combined cycle natural gas generation unit (Unit 3) for GRDA. Though not the first combined cycle plant in the state, it will be the first MHPSA unit of this model in the western hemisphere, with the potential to be the most efficient combined cycle unit in the country when it goes operational in March 2017.

It will be located at GRDA’s Grand River Energy Center (formerly Coal Fired Complex), right next to GRDA Unit 2, which, by the way, was equipped with the state’s first scrubber component (to remove sulfur dioxide from emissions) when it was constructed in the early 1980s. The addition of Unit 3 to GRDA’s overall generation portfolio brings more balance and efficiency as GRDA continues to meet its mission for Oklahoma.

Headquartered in Vinita, GRDA is Oklahoma’s state-owned electric utility; fully funded by revenues from electric and water sales instead of taxes. GRDA’s low-cost, reliable power touches 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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