May 15, 2013

Murray County power plant has been a boon to the community

Charles Oliver
charlesoliver@daltoncitizen.com

— When it’s running at full capacity, the Thomas A. Smith Energy Facility generates enough electricity to power 625,000 homes.

Located on Dalton Utilities’ land application system property in Murray County, the facility can generate up to 1,250 megawatts and runs 24 hours a day 365 days a year. But many people in the area may not even be aware it’s there.

On Tuesday, the plant’s owner, Oglethorpe Power Corp., held an open house for local business and political leaders to let them find out more about the facility.

“This is a tremendous investment, and having it here shows that we have a lot to offer as a community to any business that it looking to locate here,” said Murray County Sole Commissioner Brittany Pittman.

Mike Price, Oglethorpe Power chief operating officer, said the company was formed in 1974 when 38 of Georgia’s electrical membership cooperatives came together to form a power supply cooperative. Before that, they had depended on Georgia Power for electricity. Today, Oglethorpe serves some 4.1 million Georgians, with its headquarters just outside Atlanta in Tucker.

The Murray County plant was originally built and opened in 2002 by Duke Energy and later acquired by KGen Power. Oglethorpe acquired the facility 2011. Oglethorpe’s board voted to name the plant after CEO Thomas A. Smith last year.

Company officials said they bought the plant rather than construct a new gas-fired plant. They said they will not actually need the electricity in generates until 2016. They are currently selling that power on the market.

The plant has two combined-cycle generating units which use both natural gas and steam to generate power. The water used for generating that power comes from the nearby wastewater treatment facility owned by Dalton Utilities.

Plant Manager Michelle Crane said the plant currently employees 30 people, but they are adding three more positions this year and anticipate adding three positions each year for the next three years.

Dinah Rowe, president of the Chatsworth-Eton Murray County Chamber of Commerce, said that since Oglethorpe bought the facility the company has been very active in the community.

“They’ve helped us with so many programs. They have donated so much to our leadership and education program. They are one of the main sponsors,” she said. “And it isn’t just the monetary donations. The personnel are very active here. We are fortunate to have them.”