Already green, getting greener

Already green because it generates most of its power from renewable sources, a local utility company is getting even greener with the construction new hydroelectric facilities in Lockhart and Pacolet.

Bryan Stone, Chief Operating Officer for Lockhart Power, said Thursday that the company recently began construction of the new facilities which are expected to be completed by the end of the year. The facility in Lockhart will be located on a site that was once the industrial heart of the community.

“It is located on the site of the former Lockhart Mill,” Stone said. “We’re taking water that is currently going from the Lockhart Canal into the Broad River for environmental protection purposes. We’re going to run that water through a new turbine generator to generate renewable energy. The new turbine will be rated for 800 kilowatts which is roughly enough at full output to provide power for approximately 800 households.”

In addition to the new facility in Lockhart, Stone said the company is building a slightly larger one in Pacolet which will be rated for 1,100 kilowatts. The Pacolet facility will be located on the Pacolet River just upstream from the State Road 150 bridge.

Stone said construction of the new turbine generators are projected to cost several million dollars each, but he said the company expects some of the costs to be offset through federal stimulus funds provided through the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act (ARRA). He said the ARRA encourages investment in local communities in renewable energy.

This fits in with Lockhart Power’s efforts in recent years to increase its use of renewable resources like hydroelectric to generate electricity for the benefit of its customers.

“We’ve added cost-effective renewable energy generation over the past several years as we’ve identified those opportunities,” Stone said. “We’ve sought to get the best value for this power for our customers. The best way for us to do that is to sell the power to another utility that can use the power to satisfy its renewable energy portfolio standard requirements. When that contract under which we sell the power expires, we will have the option at that time to use the power either to serve our customers directly or to sell the power and pass on the revenues to our customers, whichever is more cost-effective.”

Stone said the community is also benefiting from the construction process which is providing a boost to the local economy. He said consumers will further benefit from the lower cost of power generation.

“There are a dozen contract personnel directly employed at the site and there are a number indirectly employed,” Stone said. “A lot of the money will be spent locally and therefore benefit the local economy. In addition, our long-term generation costs will be lower which benefits consumers.”

Lockhart Power already generates 99 percent of its electricity from renewable, environmentally-friendly sources including hydroelectricity facilities such as the Lockhart Dam. Located on the Broad River near the site of the new turbine generator, the dam has maximum power generating capacity of 16.5 megawatts. Stone said the capacity of the new turbine generator is the equivalent of 0.8 megawatts.

In addition to its hydroelectric systems, Lockhart Power also gets electricity from a landfill gas-to-power facility in Wellford that converts methane gas created by decaying garbage into electricity. The company has also set up an electric vehicle charging station and at its Lockhart office. The station is used to charge the company’s modified Toyota Prius, a plug-in hybrid electric vehicle. The station is also available for use by the public.

Stone said the new turbine generators in Lockhart and Pacolet are part of Lockhart Power’s ongoing commitment to be both customer- and environmentally-friendly.

“It continues our commitment to providing green, renewable energy in a cost-effective manner,” Stone said.

By Derik Vanderford, Staff Reporter with The Union Daily Times