By Jay Townsend
Little Rock District
Public Affairs Office
As the nations’ demand for renewable energy use increases, so does the strain on the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers ageing hydropower infrastructure, the largest producer of renewable energy in the U.S.
The Corps is the largest owner-operator of hydroelectric power plants in the U.S. and one of the largest in the world. They operate 353 hydroelectric generating units at 75 multipurpose reservoirs with a total capability of 21,000 megawatts. This capability generates about 24 percent of America’s hydroelectric power and represents approximately 3 percent of the country’s total electric-generating capacity.
In order to ensure the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers, Tulsa, Little Rock and Fort Worth district hydropower assets are reliable for years to come, the three districts, under the umbrella of the Corp’s Southwestern Division, have formed the Southwestern Division Regional Hydropower Governance Board
The governance board provides oversight of the region’s hydropower programs. The goal of the board is to seek the most effective and efficient processes to deliver power generation, sustain the infrastructure, execute operations and maintenance at the hydropower projects and sustain technical competencies.
Currently the board has established eight working groups to study specific facets of the hydropower program. Discussions range from staffing and succession planning to data acquisition and even hazardous energy. The board indentified common integral sub-programs of the overall hydropower program and charged the working groups staffed by regional subject matter experts with developing implementation plans for standardization across the region.
The board is using the Army’s risk management processes (e.g., monitoring, examination, and analysis) to decide where and when to invest in maintenance and repairs in order to assure safe operations and provide national economic benefits.
The electricity produced within the Southwestern Division is marketed by Southwestern Power Administration and is sold, at cost, to not-for-profit municipal utilities, military installations and rural electric cooperatives for use by the citizens of Arkansas, Kansas, Louisiana, Missouri, Oklahoma, and Texas.
The Fort Worth District operates and maintains three hydroelectric plants, containing a total of 6 units with a generating capacity of 101 Megawatts. All of the plants are located within Texas.
The Tulsa District operates and maintains eight hydroelectric power plants, containing a total of 22 units with a generating capacity of 584 megawatts. Seven of the plants are located within eastern Oklahoma with one located just across the border in Texas. These plants benefit approximately 2 million end users throughout Oklahoma, Texas, Arkansas, Missouri, Kansas and Louisiana.
The Little Rock District operates and maintains seven hydroelectric power plants. The 27 units in Little Rock have a a generating capacity of 1,068 Megawatts, and enough generation to power up to 400,000 households. Six of the plants are located throughout Arkansas and one is located at Table Rock Lake in Branson, Missouri.
Corps hydropower plants provide the ability to respond to rapid fluctuations in the nations’ power grid caused by other intermittent renewable resources such as wind and solar power. These auxiliary support services provided by Corps hydropower plants stabilize the grid and are essential for the smooth electrical integration of other renewable energy resources.
The current makeup of the board puts both Tulsa and Little Rock District commanders as co-chairs of the board with the Tulsa District Commander serving as the Executive Director. Members of the board include representatives from all three districts with provisions for special advisors to be select from best qualified from all three districts.