|Polk County Enterprise - Local News
Copyright 2013 - Polk County Publishing Company
Hydroelectric plant construction nears
BY BRIAN BESCH
LIVINGSTON -- Lake Livingston will soon be under construction with a hydroelectric project to provide citizens of the area additional energy. Project developers, East Texas Electric Cooperative, Inc., will begin construction at the existing Lake Livingston Dam and Reservoir on the Trinity River. The power facilities and primary transmission line will be located on the riverbank. According to Sam Houston Electric Cooperative Chief Communications Officer Keith Stapleton, the project will need to relocate certain facilities to be near the current TRA office. "The current maintenance building for TRA will need to be replaced because the pin stocks will take the water through the turbines and where they will run is where the existing maintenance building is, so it will be taken down and we are going to construct them a new maintenance building. There will also be some additional things, like the gazebo that is out there now, that will be replaced with some bird watching facilities as well. There will be facilities out there, it is currently in the design phase and I am sure that folks will enjoy that a lot." Developed in cooperation with the Trinity River Authority (TRA) of Texas and the City of Houston, the new 24-megawatt plant will produce enough electricity to power approximately 12,000 homes. Power generated by the Lake Livingston hydroelectric plant is expected to reach residents by the end of 2016. Approved funds totaling $100 million will be used toward the construction of the hydroelectric power generation facility located on the Polk County side of the Lake Livingston Dam. The dam and reservoir are owned and operated by the Trinity River Authority of Texas. No federal lands will be affected by the project. "The most important thing is that the hydroelectric facility will not — during construction or after construction — at any time affect the level of the lake," Stapleton said. "The water that TRA releases on a normal basis — we'll be allowed to use some of that water to run through those three eight-megawatt turbines to generate electricity. If TRA says they are not releasing water that day, we will not be able to generate electricity. It is called a 'run of the river project,' meaning we only use water as it is being released." ETEC General Manager Edd Hargett echoed Stapleton's thoughts on the impact the new project would have on the lake. "It's going to be whatever water goes through the dam, we'll divert some of that through our turbines and produce the electricity without affecting the flow of the dam," Hargett said. "That's up to the Trinity River Authority, how they send the water out. "It's going to be good for diversifying our load resources and give us some power that in the future will be very competitive. The Electric Cooperative pays the loans back through the member bills." Through low interest loans from the Clean Renewable Energy Bonds program, ETEC has received $105 million to help fund renewable energy projects at Lake Livingston and Woodville. The ETEC will be responsible for repayment of the loans. "Hydroelectric power is the most cost effective renewable power that we can have," Stapleton said. "Solar and wind are just not effective yet, especially for our part of the country. There are no emissions of any sort and it is very much environmentally friendly. The Federal Energy Regulatory Commission is a big fan of this particular project and we are looking forward to having an additional renewable facility in our portfolio. Will it affect the rates? Long term, yes, we believe it is going to have a good impact on the rates. Diversified portfolios, especially with affordable renewable energy, is definitely a good thing for our rates."