A hydroelectric facility currently under development in Smithland will eventually bring 72 megawatts of new, renewable energy to the region. AMP spokesman Kent Carson says Paducah and Princeton have already contracted to receive power from the project, which has a target online date of next year. Kate Lochte speaks with Carson on Sounds Good.
Untapped Potential on the Ohio River
Formal groundbreaking of the American Municipal Power-owned facility occurred in 2010. A run-of-the-river facility, the power plant is being added to the existing dam. While the structure is roughly 10-feet tall, most of it is underground, so the aesthetic impact is minimal.
The dam naturally creates a high side and a low side. As water falls from the high side to the low side, the water moves downward. The power plant diverts a portion of that flowing water into the powerhouse, through rotors, like boat propellers, which spin the generators, making electricity that is renewable and emissions free.
One megawatt enough to power 1,000 homes per year
Carson says, though 72 megawatts is the amount of emissions-free power the plant will be able to generate, it won't always be producing that much.
“With this type of generation, called run-of-the-river generation, the amount of power that’s generated, or the operational characteristics of the plant, are affected by the river levels," Carson said. "Anyone who has lived or spent time along the Ohio River knows that the river levels can fluctuate.”
In another hydroelectric project that went online in 1999, the plant reports an average of 65% capacity each year.
AMP is developing three hydroelectric projects simultaneously. The total cost is $2.05 billion, a significant investment that goes into the electric infrastructure of the region. A positive economic benefit, construction workers typically reach 400 at peak. Once the power plant is finished, each will employ between 7 to 9 full-time workers.
Carson says AMP member communities in Paducah and Princeton have already contracted to receive power from the Smithland project. The facility is expected to be online next year.