District Digest News Stories

Nashville District providing hydropower with aging equipment, rehabs underway

Nashville District Public Affairs
Published May 10, 2013
The U.S. Army Corps of Engineers Nashville District lifts the rotor assembly from a 270-ton hydropower unit undergoing rehabilitation at the Barkley Dam Hydropower Plant in Kuttawa, Ky., Aug. 16, 2012.

The U.S. Army Corps of Engineers Nashville District lifts the rotor assembly from a 270-ton hydropower unit undergoing rehabilitation at the Barkley Dam Hydropower Plant in Kuttawa, Ky., Aug. 16, 2012.

NASHVILLE, Tenn. (May 10, 2013) -- The U.S. Army Corps of Engineers Nashville District produces about $40 million annual revenue by converting water’s energy into 3.4 billion kilowatt hours of electricity in 28 generators at its nine Hydropower Plants in the Cumberland River Basin.

“This could meet 30 percent of Nashville area needs,” says Jay Sadler, mechanical engineer, Hydropower Branch.

Nashville District operates all of the Great Lakes and Ohio River Division’s hydropower plants, with nine on the Cumberland River having a 914 megawatt capacity, and remotely operates the Sault Ste. Marie hydropower plant in the Detroit District, according to David Mistakovich, chief, Hydropower Branch.

Hydropower plants on the Tennessee River are owned and operated by the Tennessee Valley Authority, along with its fossil-fired and nuclear power plants in the Tennessee Valley.

Utilizing the power of the Cumberland River to produce electricity is a rather simple concept, according to Mistakovich. “Water flowing through our dams turns turbines which turn generators in our hydropower plants. It’s a dependable, renewable, and environmentally-friendly power source,” he said.

However, with a lack of Federal funding for rehabilitation or replacement, these hydropower plants have exceeded their typical design life of 35-40 years, having been in service on average more than 50 years, and the risk of component failure increases with time.

“Keeping these aging generators and switchyards operating has been possible by the outstanding performance of the men and women who have operated and maintained this equipment over the decades with limited routine maintenance funds,” Sadler says.

Based on real time market prices, federal hydropower is a better deal than non-federal power 87 percent of the time, according to Sadler.

“Although our economical, ‘green’ Cumberland River hydropower plants don’t generate as much electricity as a fossil-fired or nuclear power plant, it is important that we have them to augment other power systems as needed. A major advantage is they can start and stop generating immediately, which the others cannot do,” Sadler added.

An additional funding source was authorized by Section 212 of the Water Resources Development Act of 2000 (PL 106-541), which allows hydropower revenues to be used for rehabilitating hydropower facilities in lieu of appropriations, which have been limited for this purpose.


2011 MOA Provides Section 212 Rehabilitation Funding

Subsequently, the 2011 Memorandum of Agreement among the Department of the Army Corps of Engineers, Nashville District, the Department of Energy Southeastern Power Administration, and 24 SEPA preference customers provides Section 212 rehabilitation funding for the next 20 years.


The SEPA markets electricity from the Cumberland System to public bodies and cooperatives, referred to as preference customers. Receipts from those preference customers that are signatories to the 2011 MOA are forwarded for the rehabilitation, non-routine maintenance, and modernization of Nashville District’s hydropower projects.

“This MOA is an excellent opportunity for hydropower advancement and growth for the Corps of Engineers, SEPA and its preference customers,” Mistakovich said.  

This agreement better guarantees low cost energy for SEPA customers living in Tennessee, Kentucky, Virginia, North Carolina, Georgia, Alabama, Mississippi and Illinois while also providing for funding for rehabilitation and modernization of equipment for Nashville District’s power plants.

“In the next 20 years SEPA plans to direct more than $1.2 billion into Corps projects including $25-$40 million per year for rehabilitating Nashville District’s 28 hydropower generators,” said Mike Wilson, Deputy District Engineer for Programs and Project Management.

 “The higher figure includes anticipated increased power production at Wolf Creek and Center Hill Hydropower Plants when those lakes can be safely raised to their normal levels, and when the Corps successfully completes negotiations for an additional MOA to include the Tennessee Valley Authority and the Tennessee Valley Public Power Association,” Wilson added.

Current projects utilizing Section 212 rehabilitation funds provided through SEPA include:

Barkley Hydropower Generator Rewind

A complete generator stator rewind of Barkley’s Unit 1 generator that suffered severe damage in a phase-to-ground fault on Dec. 19, 2010 is nearing completion and the unit is scheduled to resume operations in August 2013.

 “The total project cost is expected to be near $11.5 million, with $5.5 million provided by emergency O&M funds and $6 million provided by the Section 212 Program,” said Jamie James, project manager.

Old Hickory Crane Rehabilitation

The 56-year-old, 275-ton Old Hickory powerhouse bridge crane was recently modernized and rehabilitated to ensure safe and reliable operation during upcoming rewind and turbine rehabilitation, according to Amanda Burt, project manager.

The Old Hickory crane rehabilitation project was completed in early April 2013 at a cost of $1.5 million Section 212 funds, according to Eric Choate, contracting division.

Center Hill, Old Hickory Turbine-Generator Rehabilitations

Plans and specifications for Turbine-Generator rehabilitations at Center Hill and Old Hickory Hydropower Plants are being prepared and proposals will be solicited as funds become available according to Jeff Linkinhoker, project manager.

“Rehabilitation of the remaining hydropower plants will be accomplished as funding becomes available through this partnership of Federal and local agencies,” Wilson said.