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Co-op ‘flips the switch’ on clean energy at dam

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The R.C. Thomas Hydroelectric Project was brought online in early 2021 after eight years of planning, designing and building. The project generates enough clean energy to serve approximately 12,000 households in East Texas and has the potential to offset approximately 64,000 tons of carbon dioxide emissions from fossil fuel power-generating plants each year. Courtesy photoThe R.C. Thomas Hydroelectric Project was brought online in early 2021 after eight years of planning, designing and building. The project generates enough clean energy to serve approximately 12,000 households in East Texas and has the potential to offset approximately 64,000 tons of carbon dioxide emissions from fossil fuel power-generating plants each year. Courtesy photo

From Enterprise Staff

East Texas Electric Cooperative (ETEC), the Trinity River Authority of Texas (TRA) and the City of Houston officially “flipped the switch” at the R.C. Thomas Hydroelectric Project Friday during the facility’s dedication ceremony.

The celebration featured guests such as U.S. Congressman Brian Babin, representatives from the City of Houston and elected officials in and around the facility’s footprint.

“We’ve all been very excited about what this plant will mean to the local economy,” Babin said. “The completion of this hydroelectric plant is an outstanding accomplishment for East Texas and confirms our commitment to a long-term energy strategy that maximizes domestic energy production to ensure that the United States is energy independent.”

Situated on Lake Livingston in Polk County, the hydroelectric project was brought online in early 2021 after eight years of planning, designing and building. The project generates enough clean energy to serve approximately 12,000 households in East Texas and has the potential to offset approximately 64,000 tons of carbon dioxide emissions from fossil fuel power-generating plants each year.

“It’s been many years in the making, but we’re honored to see the plant operating, aiding community growth and sustainability,” ETEC Board President Greg Jones said. “This project is another firm step towards a diversified power mix and continuing to offer affordable and reliable power to our members.”

The plant generates electricity by utilizing the power of water flowing from Lake Livingston to the Trinity River below the dam. Water that TRA would otherwise release through the dam’s spillway gates is diverted through the plant’s powerhouse, turning three 8-megawatt turbine-driven generators. The electricity generated goes immediately onto the power grid serving the region. The plant is uniquely designed to meet water demands downstream and to maintain a relatively constant reservoir level.

The R.C. Thomas Hydroelectric Project was developed by ETEC in cooperation with TRA, which owns and operates the dam and reservoir, and the city of Houston, which funded the construction of the existing facilities in the 1960s and owns water rights to 70% of the lake’s storage.

ETEC is a not-for-profit generation and transmission cooperative headquartered in Nacogdoches. It’s mission is to provide low-cost, reliable power to its seven not-for-profit electric distribution cooperatives and another generation and transmission cooperative serving three additional distribution co-ops. ETEC provides power to 330,000 households and businesses across 46 counties in East Texas.

TRA was created by the state legislature in 1955 as a conservation and reclamation district. TRA provides water and wastewater treatment, along with recreation and reservoir facilities, for municipalities within the nearly 18,000-square-mile Trinity River basin. 

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