Thurmond Dam could be remotely operated

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The Army Corps of Engineers is exploring the idea of automating and remotely controlling its three federal hydropower projects along the Savannah River.

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Thurmond Dam control room shift operator Tony Hackle works in the control room. The Army Corps of Engineers is planning a feasibilty study to automate the control technology of its three Savannah River dams, Hartwell, Russell and Thurmond.  CHRIS THELEN/STAFF
CHRIS THELEN/STAFF
Thurmond Dam control room shift operator Tony Hackle works in the control room. The Army Corps of Engineers is planning a feasibilty study to automate the control technology of its three Savannah River dams, Hartwell, Russell and Thurmond.

“The overall goal is to explore all the options we have to increase our efficiency while maintaining the safety and reliability of these projects,” said William “Jay” Palmer, the chief of the Savannah District hydropower technical center.

Each of the three projects is operated and managed by on-site operators who staff control rooms 24 hours a day all year long.

Although computerization and other improvements have been made at the sites over the years, each dam was built in a different era, with varied technology.

Thurmond, the oldest, went online in the early 1950s, followed by Hartwell in the ’60s and Russell in the 1980s.

“They are three separate islands right now,” Palmer said.

The Corps issued a recent request for proposals to solicit parties interested in conducting a feasibility study for automating and consolidating the projects.

“There are two main aspects we’re looking at,” Palmer said. “The first is local plant automation, in which we see what we can do to modernize the system. That would be local to the plant and something to make them more efficient.”

A second facet of the study would explore opportunities for remotely controlling the network of reservoirs, turbines and power transmission equipment.

“The idea would be to look at the system as a whole to see if there are more efficiencies we can get through by remote operation schemes,” he said, noting that similar efforts have been successful at other Corps districts.

Any such changes could be years away, but the upcoming study should shed more light on potential improvements.

The three projects, whose reservoirs encompass about 156,000 flooded acres at full pool, typically generate about 1.2 megawatt hours each year.

That electricity is marketed by the Southeastern Power Administration to electric cooperatives and other customers throughout the region. Such sales return about $70 million to the U.S. Treasury each year.

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Riverman1
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Riverman1 12/27/11 - 05:51 am
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I suggest the dam at Stevens

I suggest the dam at Stevens Creek also be included in order to keep the Columbia County portion of the river at adequate levels.

paulwheeler
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paulwheeler 12/27/11 - 08:35 am
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The Corps doesn't control

The Corps doesn't control Stevens creek, SCE&G. It's already doing it's part to mitigate fluctuating water levels just by being there.
But if it would help, CC could run one of it's fine new fiber optic lines over there so the Corps could tie in.

Riverman1
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Riverman1 12/27/11 - 08:40 am
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Paul, sure I understand it's

Paul, sure I understand it's an SCE&G owned dam. I live close to it. It could be managed lots better, trust me on that. If we are going to go into an automated system for the other dams, it would certainly help to make this one part of the system is my point. It makes no sense for the dams not to be coordinated perfectly if you want to ensure adequate water levels.

Rob Pavey
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Rob Pavey 12/27/11 - 10:31 am
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it would be interesting to

it would be interesting to see if Stevens Creek could be tied in - from what they generally tell me, SCE&G uses the 2400-acre reservoir to capture and gradually release the erratic flows sent downstream from Clarks Hill. Clarks Hill generates at peak power for a few hours when needed then slows or halts entirely. If Stevens Creek werent there to absorb and release it slowly, the river below would fluctuate a lot more than it does. A quote (from an old story) from the operator: "Around midnight every night, they give us a projection of what they think they will release for the next day, and we'll divide that by 24 and set our gates to release that much every hour."

Riverman1
84110
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Riverman1 12/27/11 - 10:35 am
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Thanks, Rob. Revealing.

Thanks, Rob. Revealing.

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