American Municipal Power Inc. - Power Plant Project

As more have turned to alternative sources of energy, the use of hydroelectric power has become more prevalent. American Municipal Power (AMP) Inc. has not let its use pass it by, and has started along with the City of Hamilton one of four run-of-the-river hydroelectric plants on the Ohio River. One plant is the Meldahl hydroelectric power plant located about 40 minutes east of Cincinnati at the Captain Anthony Meldahl Locks & Dam.

AMP Vice President of Hydro Construction Pete Crusse explains that construction is under way on the plant at the Captain Anthony Meldahl Locks and Dam. When finished, the plant will generate 105 megawatts and have 10 stories, including six underground floors.

“It’s being built at the end of the dam,” Crusse says, noting that the project carries a budget of approximately $403 million and will utilize an estimated 97,000 cubic yards of concrete. The final completion date is fall 2014.

Kent Carson, AMP’s senior director of media relations, says now is an ideal time to build the plant because of the power industry’s unpredictable market. AMP has been active as a customer in the wholesale electric market since the 1970s, and traditionally, AMP members had relied heavily on the wholesale market – with nearly 70 percent of its members’ base load energy needs and 90 percent of their intermediate needs being met with wholesale electricity purchases.

In an effort to insulate the company’s members from market volatility and uncertainty, and to ensure a more predictable supply of competitively priced power, AMP has undertaken an aggressive generation asset development effort with new resources in four states, including Ohio. On average, these projects will reduce the company’s members’ market exposure to about 30 percent of their portfolio and will result in a portfolio that is 20 percent renewable in 2015.

The project also takes advantage of an untapped resource, Carson says. Many of the dams along the Ohio River have existed for at least 50 years but do not generate power.

“Someone needed to come along and develop that resource,” he says, noting that run-of-the-river hydroelectric power has minimal impacts on the environment. “These plants [also] last 80 to 100 years.”

Working Through It Together

Alberici Corp. and Baker Construction Group have formed a joint venture as the general contractors on the project, while Voith and Siemens AG will provide the turbines, Crusse says. “I’ve worked with Alberici and Baker in the past,” he says. “We have a good team put together and they work through the problems jointly.”

The contractors also have worked closely with the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers (USACE), which owns the dam. “Their No. 1 concern is the navigation on the river,” Crusse says. To ensure all needs are being met during construction, the project team has a weekly phone call with the USACE and the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission (FERC) to go over the project.

Despite the massive size, the project team has avoided accidents by keeping safe. “We will not for one single second sacrifice safety over schedules and money,” he says.

Crusse adds that AMP has an owner’s controlled insurance policy, which nurtures a stronger focus on safety. For instance, AMP has a full-time safety representative from the insurance company on site to assist members of the construction team.

“While work is going on, they are helping the contractors’ safety departments,” Crusse says. “There’s an extra set of eyes, even though safety is the responsibility of every contractor on site.”

Staying Diverse

Based in Columbus, Ohio, AMP is a nonprofit organization that serves 130 member municipal communities in its home state, along with Pennsylvania, Michigan, Virginia, Kentucky and West Virginia. The firm also serves the Delaware Municipal Electric Corp., a joint action agency in Smyrna, Del.

Together, AMP members serve more than 625,000 customers. “AMP manages and supplies competitively priced, reliable wholesale power to member municipal electric systems,” it says.

The company sells power to its members at rates that are based on the purchase price and dispatch fees, along with a small service fee. “We also negotiate and coordinate power-supply operations and interconnection agreements, and operate an energy control center, 24 hours a day, 365 days a year to serve our member communities,” the company says.

When AMP started its current project, it had a study performed on all the river’s dams to determine which would be the best for building a plant. The Captain Anthony Meldahl Locks and Dam scored the highest ranking, due to the highest head water at the dam.

Looking ahead, the decisions to pursue additional projects will be driven by the needs of the members, he says. “There’s potential for more projects, and not just hydro,” he adds.

For instance, AMP brought a solar facility on line in 2012 and it is now looking at additional solar projects. Carson says. “It’s all about diversification,” he says.

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