Low water levels create high energy costs - WALB.com, Albany News, Weather, Sports

Low water levels create high energy costs

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August 8, 2007

Cordele -- The drought of 2007 has certainly taken a toll on Georgia waterways; dropping lake and river levels to near historic lows.

Lake Blackshear Dam on the Flint River, which generates power to nearly 24,000 Crisp County Power customers, has certainly felt those effects.

"Whenever we're in this kind of condition, we don't have very much water to pass through our generating units. Right now we have one generator on, and it's on minimum flow. We're passing through somewhere in the neighborhood of 600 cubic feet per second," said Gene Ford, plant supervisor for Crisp County Power Commission.

Under normal flow conditions, Lake Blackshear Dam can produce enough electricity to meet peak demand. But with water levels so low, the flow must be regulated, even at peak energy times.

"With the levels where they are now, basically we're staying on a minimum flow all the time. We are going to peak generate a little today, we did it yesterday. But what this means is that we're pulling water out of the lake. The lake is just not large enough that we have a lot of storage to do that with," said CCPC General Manager Steve Rentfrow.

The Flint River Basin near Montezuma, which supplies flow into the dam, has an average flow of 1,650 cubic feet per second. Right now the current flow is at 501 cubic feet per second.

Couple that with high summer energy usage and the power that cannot be generated from the hydroelectric dam must be purchased elsewhere on the market. That increases consumer costs.

"It's costing Crisp County Power about $200,000 - $300,000 a month. Sooner or later these costs are going to have to be recovered by rates. That's the only place they can be recovered," said Rentfrow.

Meaning that if the flow is down, the price will go up.

The Lake Blackshear Dam is one of two hydroelectric dams on the Flint River.

Rentfrow says that even though South Georgia power production has been affected by low water levels, the situation in Northwest Georgia is much worse.

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