WV’s Newest Power Plant Dedicated
The State Journal
20 October 2016
By Jim Ross
West Virginia’s newest power plant was dedicated Tuesday, Oct. 18,
with calls to streamline the process for building more.
American Municipal Power dedicated the hydroelectric plant at the
Willow Island Locks and Dam on the Ohio River in Pleasants County.
The ceremony also celebrated the dedication of two others it’s
building or has built on the Ohio River — at the Cannelton Locks
and Dam and at the Smithland Locks and Dam, both in Kentucky.
Marc Gerken, president and CEO of AMP, said hydroelectric power is
a reliable baseload source that is predictable and reliable, and
it has no waste stream.
U.S. Sen. Shelley Moore Capito, R-W.Va., said the United States
need an all-of-the-above strategy of baseload and intermittent
generation to meet the nation’s’ power needs.
The 10-year time period needed by a hydroelectric plant such as
the one at Willow Island for permitting and construction is too
long, she said.
“We should have a regulatory process that works with you, not
against you,” she told the group assembled on the roof of the
Capito said she does not want power plant projects to evade
environmental regulations, but she sees the need to streamline the
Leroy Coleman, director of communications for the National
Hydropower Association, said hydropower is the largest source of
clean renewable energy in use today.
“Hydropower isn’t topped out. We have so much room for growth,” he
said. “We need a regulatory process that’s more timely.”
American Municipal Power is a nonprofit corporation that owns and
operates electric facilities. The organizations coordinates,
negotiates and develops power-supply options and interconnection
AMP purchases wholesale electric power it sells to members at
rates based on cost and dispatch fees. It has members in Philippi
and New Martinsville.
Construction of the Willow Island plant began in the summer of
2011. It went into commercial operation in February. The plant has
a listed capacity of 44 megawatts and is expected to produce
239,000 megawatt hours per year.
The Cannelton plant began commercial production in June. The
88-megawatt plant is expected to produce 459,000 MWh annually. The
76-MW Smithland plant is expected to begin production in early
2017 and produce 379,000 MWh annually.
Steve Dupee, chairman of the AMP board of directors, said AMP
officials decided in 2002 that they needed to own more baseload
power. It was a time when AMP’s member utilities were buying 60
percent of their electricity on the open market, he said.
Adding member-owned generating capacity would reduce its members
exposure to the unpredictable costs of buying electricity on the
open market, and it would diversify AMP’s portfolio.
Part of that process was the decision to build four run-of-river
projects simultaneously, Dupee said. Those were the three
dedicated Tuesday, along with a hydroelectric plant on the
Kentucky side of the Meldahl Locks and Dam, developed jointly with
AMP member Hamilton, Ohio.
But building a hydroelectric power plant is not an inexpensive
undertaking. Per megawatt hour produced, a hydroelectric plant is
about as expensive as a nuclear plant. The advantage of a
hydroelectric plant is that once the debt service is paid off
after 30 to 35 years, operating costs are low, Gerken said.
AMP’s first wholly owned hydroelectric plant on the Ohio was on
the West Virginia side of the Belleville Locks and Dam, in Wood
County near the Jackson County line. Gerken said that plant came
online in 2000.
“In 2007 we had a good five or six years of history, and the
numbers were comfortable,” he said in an interview following the
The downside is the up front capital cost, he said. But AMP’s
member utilities are not controlled by stockholders, so they can
look at the long term and not have to worry so much about
short-term returns, he said.
AMP’s four new hydroelectric plants, a coal-burning plant and a
gas-burning plant are a $6.5 billion undertaking, Gerken said. In
2006, AMP was asset-poor, so it had to demonstrate it could handle
such a debt load, he said.
Part of the cost was financed through the federal government’s
Build America Bonds, he said. The hydroelectric plants qualify for
renewable energy credits, but “it’s not very impactual,” Gerken