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Tapping River Power

Visionary pursuit of carbon free hydroelectricity

EDITOR’S NOTE: The U.S. Energy Information Administration recently reported on Ohio efforts to wring 300 megawatts of hydroelectric power from dams that previously did not have electric generating units. The Energy Times invited Marc S. Gerken, a leader in that effort, to explore the issues involved. This is the first of a two-part series of articles.

In 2004, American Municipal Power, its board and its member municipal electric communities were concerned about rising wholesale energy markets, the lack of bilateral energy markets, a portfolio that included an aging 200 megawatt coal plant and a 90 percent dependency on energy markets.

The coal plant was retired six years ago.

AMP leadership, through extensive member input defined that it must move forward with a resource portfolio that was diverse, economically competitive and sustainable.

Marc S. Gerken /// American Public Power Association


As markets continued to rise through mid-2008, our asset strategies were developed that included 368 megawatts of clean coal, 685 megawatts of new combined cycle and 305 megawatts of new hydro. All together, these developments were over $5 billion in investment.

Today, AMP is leading the way in hydroelectric power. Our hydro plants are the largest deployment of clean, renewable run-of-the-river generation in the country.

The projects, constructed at existing U.S. Army Corps of Engineers dams on the Ohio River, represent a long-term commitment to environmentally responsible generation.

Declared in full commercial operation in February, the Willow Island hydroelectric plant is a 44 megawatts two-unit facility with a projected annual output of 239,000 megawatt-hours.

The Cannelton hydroelectric plant is a three-unit 88 megawatt facility, which was declared in full commercial operation in June 2016. The projected annual output of the plant is 459,000 megawatt-hours.

The Meldahl hydroelectric plant is a three-unit 105 megawatts facility with a projected annual output of 558,000 megawatt-hours. The plant was declared in full commercial operation in April. The project was developed in partnership with AMP member the City of Hamilton, Ohio.

Commissioning work continues at the Smithland hydroelectric plant, with a projected commercial operation date in the first quarter of 2017. The plant is a 76 megawatts three-unit facility with a projected annual output of 379,000 megawatt-hours.

AMP’s diverse energy resource portfolio compares well both regionally and nationally, and hydro has played an important role in helping our members meet their sustainability goals.

In addition to these four projects, AMP and our members also benefit from existing hydro facilities:

The Greenup Hydroelectric Plant began commercial operation on the Ohio River in 1982 with the City of Hamilton as owner. AMP purchased a 48.6 percent share from Hamilton in May.

Beginning commercial operation in 1999, the Belleville Hydroelectric Plant is a 42-megawatt Ohio River facility and produced a total of 261,279 megawatt-hours in 2015. AMP operates Belleville on behalf of a joint venture of 42 AMP member communities that collectively own the project.

Nine AMP member communities also individually own hydro facilities on various waterways, totaling more than 65 megawatts:

  • New Martinsville, WV – 36 megawatts
  • Danville, VA – 11.1 megawatts
  • Bedford, VA – 5 megawatts
  • Columbus, OH – 5 megawatts
  • Bryan, OH – 4.7 megawatts
  • Hamilton, OH – megawatts 1.5
  • Martinsville, VA – 1.3 megawatts
  • Union City, MI – .375 megawatts
  • Marshall, MI – .32 megawatts

There are many benefits of hydropower, and the U.S. Department of Energy’s recently released Hydropower Vision Report is bringing national attention to the untapped generating capacity.

Marc S. Gerken is president and chief executive officer of American Municipal Power.



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