The Nashville District of the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers plans a $1 billion project to improve hydroelectric generators at dams in the region.
The Tennessean reported work could begin this year at the Center Hill Dam where plans call for three aging generators to be renovated.
Jamie James, a program manager for the district, says the refurbished generators will mean that more low-cost energy is on the market.
“More efficient generation equates to lower costs,” James said.
After work on the generators at Center Hill Dam is completed, crews will begin renovating generators at the Old Hickory Dam near Nashville.
The generators are being worked on one at a time so that there won’t be a big effect in its ability to supply energy to the power grid. The entire project is expected to take about 20 years.
“The goal of what we do — and even the pace that we’re doing these — is to maintain the low cost of the electricity and avoid anything that’s going to contribute to a rate increase,” James said.
Most of the dams were built more than five decades ago. James said the generators are designed to have a useful life of about 35 years.
“Even with the best care, electrical equipment gets old,” James said. “We are well past the design life of these units.”
The project should give the generators 30 to 40 more years of life.
Hydroelectric power is the cheapest source of energy compared with sources such as coal, nuclear and natural gas. The Army Corps sells its power to an intermediary and some of it is purchased by the Tennessee Valley Authority, which provides energy for much of Middle Tennessee.
David Mistakovich, the district’s chief of hydropower, says the work will also allow the generators to provide more aeration to the water, which will reduce the environmental impact.