Monday, February 12, 2018


When the hydroelectric power plant at the Smithland Locks and Dam went into commercial operation last summer, it marked the end of this phase of hydroelectric development on the Ohio River.

The hydroelectric power plant at the Willow Island Locks and Dam.

The small run-of-river power plants won’t overtake coal as the principal power generator along the river as long as coal is burned, but taken together, they are a significant source of electricity in the Ohio Valley.
Here’s a chart of the ten largest power plants along the Ohio River, ranked by their net generation in 2016, the last year for which all numbers are available. All ten are primarily coal-fired unless otherwise noted.

The last line combines all nine hydroelectric plants for comparison purposes.

Power Plant2016 Generation (Megawatt hours)2006 Generation (Megawatt hours)
Beaver Valley *15,219,57412,135,311
Gen. James M. Gavin13,955,08816,671,669
Bruce Mansfield11,614,35418,628,146
Hanging Rock **9,716,9721,006,760
H.L. Spurlock8,560,9887,610,353
Trimble County ***8,555,4034,526,798
All hydro plants2,536,6001,800,070
* Nuclear
** Natural gas
*** Primarily coal with some natural gas
Source: Energy Information Administration

In case you were wondering, the 2.5 million megawatt hours of electricity produced by the hydroelectric plants would put them 25th on the overall list of plants along the river.

As you also probably noticed on the chart, production at the largest coal-fired plants dropped in the past decade as coal lost market share to natural gas and renewables.

The year 2016 saw three hydroelectric plants — Willow Island, Cannelton and Meldahl — go online. Those three and Smithland were all developed by American Municipal Power.

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