Houma gets jolt of power

A new power plant in Morgan City is set to provide Houma with electricity well into the future.

Officials from the six cities set to receive electricity from the $121 million plant held a ribbon cutting at the facility on Friday. According to the Louisiana Energy and Power Authority, which will manage the location, the plant will be providing power daily by June 1.

The 64-megawatt, natural gas combined-cycle gas turbine plant is set to provide Houma with 25 megawatts of power when needed. According to Terrebonne Parish Manager Al Levron, the parish partially owns a coal power plant, a hydroelectric plant and has its own power plant on Barrow Street. The Morgan City power plant helps Terrebonne diversify its utility portfolio and protect itself from rising prices in any one energy source.

“When we entered into the deal several years ago, the energy generation market was very volatile. So, we saw this as a way of hedging and guaranteeing a certain supply for the citizens and users of the Houma utility system,” the parish manager said.

Levron, who was appointed to the LEPA board by Terrebonne Parish President Gordon Dove, said the new facility does not mean the end of operations for the Barrow Street facility. However, the Morgan City plant does provide an additional energy source, and one that can make Terrebonne some money. When the city does not need power from the new plant, it can sell its power load on the commercial market, translating into more money for the entire parish.

“In this time of economic uncertainty in the oilfield, having a revenue source we can look to for the long term is certainly a good thing for the citizens of Terrebonne,” Levron said.

The plant uses both a natural gas combustion turbine and a steam turbine to generate power for Houma, Morgan City, Jonesville, Plaquemine, Rayne and Vidalia. LEPA General Manager Cordell Grand said the new plant has twice the efficiency of older plants built in the 1960s and 1970s.

The Morgan City facility is the first electrical power plant to be built by LEPA and the first power plant built in south Louisiana in about 40 years. Grand said the authority noticed a lack of power generation and import capability in south Louisiana, so it looked at both Morgan City and Houma for the plant’s location. According to Grand, LEPA chose the 10-acre lot in Morgan City for its proximity to the city’s wastewater treatment facility, giving the power plant the opportunity to use the treatment center’s discharge water as cooling water.

Jerry Ratajczyk, assistant superintendent at the Morgan City plant, said 16 people will work at the power plant when it is fully operating. Ratajczyk said the Morgan City staff has been working on the in-house system simulator since April and is very comfortable with the operations at the facility. Grand said the plant was the next step in providing reliable, efficient energy for the six cities involved in the project.

“During the timeframe leading up to now, we have utilized other avenues in the market to supply load more economically. But it’s gotten to the point where the time had come where if you really wanted to protect yourself from high cost, you’re going to have to build a plant,” Grand said. •

Houma gets jolt of powerKARL GOMMEL | THE TIMES