Corps planning rehab of Denison Dam power plant

When the Denison Dam was first put into commission in the 1940s, the equipment in the power plant was shiny and new. Now the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers is preparing to replace some of those original pieces.

“The power plant was commissioned in 1944 and it’s gotten quite old,” said Denison Dam Power Plant Specialist Tom McGraph. “We’re using a lot of the same equipment that we were in 1944, so it’s gotten worn out.”

He said the Corps plans to replace the turbines, which generate electricity when turned by an inflow of water from Lake Texoma, along with other equipment over the next several years. The Corps plans to award a contract for the design, fabrication and installation of the new equipment within the next year.

McGraph said the multi-million dollar project will take several years to complete. The funding is coming from decades of revenue from the sale of electricity generated at the dam. The Southwestern Power Administration is responsible for selling the energy created at the dam.

“How we set our rates and everything, it always includes the cost of replacing that equipment as it comes to its end of life, so what’s going on at Denison is just part of the protocol of having an electrical plant,” said Fritha Ohlson, a civil engineer with the Administration, which is a division of the U.S. Department of Energy.

Besides the need to replace the worn out equipment, the Corps is also hopeful the overhaul will include more efficient equipment. McGraph said currently the two turbines generate approximately 40 megawatts each. He said the Corps hopes the new turbines will operate at 50 megawatts each.

Ohlson said while the increased efficiency will mean more power generated at the plant, it won’t require more water from Lake Texoma. “There will be no discernible change in the volume of water that’s moved at all,” she said. “There’s no anticipated change in the way we’ve historically operated the project due to the rehab of the units.”

McGraph said when it comes time to do the work, only one turbine at a time will be taken out of commission. This ensures the plant can still produce electricity and is also because of limited space in the building.

“We’re excited about it (the rehab) happening,” he said.