KUTTAWA, Ky. (May 20, 2021) – The Barkley Powerplant is transforming its switchyard with the delivery of two 90-ton transformers Wednesday via a barge on the Cumberland River.
The special payload completes a very long journey from factory in Lubliniec, Poland, where they were manufactured by EthosEnergy. The transformers were shipped across the Atlantic Ocean to Galveston, Texas, and then moved up the Inland Waterway System to a boat ramp below Barkley Dam for offloading.
EthosEnergy out of Houston, Texas, moved the 382,000-pound transformers from the boat ramp to the switch yard. Moving forward over the next month, “A. West Enterprises” out of Albany, Georgia, is charged with installing and testing the first transformer on its containment pad. Once the first transformer goes online, the Corps of Engineers is set to remove the second of two General Electric transformers that have been in service since 1971. The second transformer would be installed after the second containment pad is constructed.
Chris Stoltz, U.S. Army Corps of Engineers Nashville District project manager, said the project for the new transformers cost about $2.5 million and is related to another contract that has been awarded to modernize equipment and rehabilitate four hydropower units over the next seven years. The initiative is part of the district’s Hydropower Rehabilitation Program in accordance with Section 212 of the Water Resources Development Act of 2000, he added.
“The new transformers will be able to handle the greater capacity of the turbine generator units when the rehabilitated units eventually come online,” Stoltz said.
The Nashville District has been working several years to design, plan, and contract the manufacture, delivery, and installation of the new transformers that will deliver power to the region for another half century.
John Reed, senior project engineer and Nashville District’s contracting officer representative, monitored the long-awaited delivery for safety and quality assurance, ensuring the government receives the goods and services as outlined in the contract. He said he is working closely with the contractor’s safety reps to prevent any mishaps and to safely move and install the transformers.
“The next couple of weeks is when it all comes together. We’ll get it on the pad, get it hooked up and start making juice again,” Reed said. “The new transformer are rated for 100 megavolt amperes, which can put out the full uprated 46 megawatts per generator after the rehabilitation. The additional capacity above 92 megawatts of two units would assure full capability even during times of extreme high temperature.”
The Nashville District has 35 large transformers at its nine powerplants in the Cumberland River Basin that are all original equipment from when the plants were constructed. Barkley Dam’s transformers are the first to be replaced in the fleet. The district has contracted for two more for Old Hickory Dam in Hendersonville, Tennessee, and is in the planning phase to replace the transformers at Wolf Creek Dam in Jamestown, Kentucky.
Brandon Bouwman, electrical engineer with the USACE Hydroelectric Design Center’s Generator and Equipment Section, works with generators, transformers, excitation systems, basically anything related to providing hydroelectricity to power customers. He has been supporting the Nashville District on this project since 2017 and talked about the importance of replacing old equipment during the offloading of Barkley’s new transformers.
“Across the entire Corps of Engineers there are over 400 transformers at powerplants and most of them are also over 50 years old. That aging infrastructure is critical power-train equipment. If we lose a transformer you cannot get power out,” Bouwman said. “So that’s why we need to make sure we’re keeping these things in good repair and thinking about replacements.”
Bouwman said a transformer the size of the two that were just delivered to Barkley Dam can take upwards of two years to build.
“If it takes one to two years to build them, you can see how that work can stack up,” Bouwman said. “If you’re not planning ahead and have concurrent failures, you can be in a position where you have a lot of units down and you’re not able to meet the needs of the preference customers that provide power to all the people who need that power.”
The new transformers provide increased power ratings and include safety and environmental benefits. They are constructed with safety features to protect employees from being harmed if there are any thermal-related failures. Providing a containment structure protects the environment if a transformer were to release the oil that is contained in the unit.
Bouwman said the Corps of Engineers began replacing aging transformers back in the 1980s. To his knowledge, the delivery of two transformers to Barkley Dam is the first time he can recall that they were delivered to a powerplant onboard a barge. Motor Vessel John Wepfer from the Port of Calvert City, Kentucky, made the drop off.
(The public can obtain news, updates and information from the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers Nashville District on the district’s website at www.lrn.usace.army.mil, on Facebook at www.facebook.com/nashvillecorps and on Twitter at www.twitter.com/nashvillecorps.)