PowerSouth’s Central Generation facility, located in Gantt, Alabama, consists of the Maury A. McWilliams Steam Power Plant, the James A. Vann Jr. Power Plant, and the Point A and Gantt Hydroelectric Power Plants.
The McWilliams Power Plant
The McWilliams Power Plant was PowerSouth’s first generating plant and was named after Maury A. McWilliams, PowerSouth’s first board president, recognizing his untiring and faithful efforts in bringing about the construction of the plant. The plant’s first two units began operation in the mid-1950s, and the third unit went online in 1959. Having used the plant to its full life expectancy, PowerSouth repowered the plant in 1996 to help meet future generation needs. The repowering process included the installation of a natural gas-fired 107-megawatt combustion turbine-generator and a heat recovery system that recycles exhaust heat to create steam. The steam is used by the plant’s original units to produce electricity. The repowered plant provides 159-megawatts during the winter and 149-megawatts during summer. At its winter peak, McWilliams generates enough electricity to power approximately 159,000 homes.
Construction on the Vann Plant, adjacent to the McWilliams Plant, was completed in December 2001. The plant – named after former PowerSouth President and CEO James A. Vann, Jr. – uses a combined-cycle process of natural gas and steam generation. The natural gas used to fuel the plant is delivered via a 61-mile, 20-inch pipeline that runs from Flomaton, Ala., to the plant site. The Vann Plant serves as baseload generation for PowerSouth and its distribution members. It boasts a winter capacity of 539 megawatts and a summer capacity of 501 megawatts. It was designed to incorporate the most environmentally friendly equipment available to generate affordable electricity, and it is PowerSouth’s cleanest and most efficient fossil-fired generating facility to date, generating enough electricity to power approximately 539,000 homes.
The Point A & Gantt Hydroelectric Power Plants
The Point A and Gantt Hydroelectric Power Plants combine for a generating capacity of 8 megawatts – enough to power approximately 8,000 homes. Water is held in large reservoirs behind the dams with hydroelectric power plants below. The dams create strong water flows, which move turbine blades that turn the rotor of an electric generator.
The Gantt Plant is located in Gantt, Alabama, at the site of a former grist mill on the Conecuh River. The Point A Plant is approximately five miles downstream near the town of River Falls, Alabama. Today, the plants are operated and monitored using modern technology from on-site control rooms or a centralized control room at McWilliams Power Plant. The hydro plants operate only when river levels allow an adequate supply of water to turn turbines.
Additional Power Plants
Charles R. Lowman Power Plant
Located in Leroy, Alabama, the Charles R. Lowman Power Plant was named after former General Manager Charles R. Lowman, who served 38 years with PowerSouth. The Lowman Plant operates three generating units. Lowman Plant’s Unit 1 began commercial operation in 1969. Units 2 and 3 went commercial in 1979 and 1980, respectively.
The plant has a generating capacity of 556 megawatts — enough to power approximately 556,000 homes.
Coal, transported either by barge from the Tombigbee River or by rail, is the primary source of fuel used at Lowman. The coal is burned at temperatures greater than 2,500 degrees Fahrenheit to produce steam.
Environmental Stewardship at the Plant
Since their construction 30 years ago, units 2 and 3 use scrubbers, or Flue Gas Desulfurization (FGD) technology to remove sulfur dioxide (SO2) from flue gases. All the plant’s units are equipped with electrostatic precipitators (ESPs), which preserve air quality by preventing particulate matter from entering the atmosphere.
Despite PowerSouth’s early commitment to the environment, recent regulations necessitated an Air Quality Control (AQC) project in 2009, which included adding a new scrubber system for units 1 and 2. Units 2 and 3 employ a Selective Catalytic Reduction (SCR) system, reducing nitrogen oxide (NOx) emissions and mercury emissions when used in combination with the units’ scrubbers. The plant’s existing scrubbers were upgraded to further reduce SO2 emissions from unit 3.
McIntosh Power Plant
Located in McIntosh, Alabama, PowerSouth’s 350-megawatt McIntosh Power Plant currently includes two natural-gas-fired combustion turbines and the United States’ only Compressed Air Energy Storage (CAES) unit. The current natural gas units went commercial in 1998, generating a total of 240 megawatts. The CAES facility generates 110 megawatts.
An additional two generation units are near construction completion at the McIntosh Plant site. The two natural-gas-fired, simple-cycle units will provide 360 additional megawatts, increasing the output of the plant’s natural-gas units to 600 megawatts and overall Plant capacity to 710 megawatts — enough electricity to power approximately 710,000 homes.
The two additional units, classified as peaking units, are designed to provide additional electricity to the PowerSouth system during “peak” usage periods — usually short periods of time during early morning or evening hours. The McIntosh Plant’s turbines and generators offer simple-cycle technology with a short start-up time, making them suitable for continuous, peaking, and emergency operation.
James H. Miller Jr. Electric Generating Plant
In June 1992, PowerSouth purchased an 8.16% ownership interest in units 1 and 2 of Alabama Power Company’s James H. Miller Jr. Electric Generating Plant near Birmingham, Alabama. PowerSouth receives 114 megawatts of coal-fired generation from the plant.
At full capacity, the plant can generate about 2.69 billion watts of electricity — enough to serve the needs of about 885,000 homes.
Unit 1 became operational in 1978, unit 2 in 1985, unit 3 in 1989, and unit 4 in 1991. The total generating capacity for the plant’s four units is 2,664 megawatts.