Upgrading Turbines

Keisa Sharpe

Alabama Power unlocking ‘more clean energy’ at dams

Alabama Power is helping “unlock more clean energy” for the nation through turbine upgrades at its hydroelectric facilities.

The company’s turbine upgrades are featured among a select number of similar projects taking place around the country in an article on the U.S. Department of Energy (DOE) website.

Four hydro units at three dams on the Coosa River are being upgraded. One unit upgrade was completed in December 2012 and a second unit was finished in August 2013. The third unit is expected to be done by year end, while the fourth should be finished by the first quarter of 2014.

The upgrades are funded partly by DOE through its hydropower modernization project.

Upgraded hydro units help increase the supply of clean, renewable energy by operating with greater efficiency. They also require less maintenance.

Lay Hydro Plant has completed both the unit 1 and unit 4 upgrades. Test results have not been released, but are expected to exceed the guarantees of the turbine supplier/installer.

“The results for the Lay units are expected to be favorable,” said Senior Engineer Danny Minor. “Final reports are not official at this point due to some post-test verification being done by an independent testing firm. We expect to see as much as a 10 percent increase in energy from each Lay unit, and similar increases from the Bouldin and Jordan units.”

At Bouldin Hydro Plant, the unit 2 turbine retrofits should be completed by the end of 2013. Jordan Hydro Plant unit 4 is scheduled for completion around the first week of March 2014.

“With the retrofits from these hydro plants combined, Alabama Power will have nearly the equivalent of a new unit through the increased megawatts,” said Bouldin Plant Superintendent Chuck Easterling.

Before the upgrades to these four units, Alabama Power had performed successful major upgrades on 10 units at five other hydro plants. The latest upgraded units are expected to provide reliable service for more than 50 years, and each unit should increase generation by 8 percent to 12 percent.

“Another benefit is the time and expense associated with maintenance of these turbines should be greatly reduced. With less time dedicated to maintaining these units, the plant staff can be more effectively utilized,” Minor said.

Alabama Power operates 157,000 acres of lakes created by 14 hydroelectric dams. Along with providing enough renewable energy to power 400,000 homes, the lakes support environmental habitats and communities.

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