Stacking the deck

Stacking the deck

In a game of cards, assembling the strongest hand means having the right card to play at the right time. Depending on the situation, the value of each card changes. It might be best to play a jack, to hold a queen for later, or to pull out that ace in the hole. That strategy can be used as an analogy to describe the way Buckeye Power, the generation and transmission provider for Ohio’s electric cooperatives, compiles and uses its generation sources. Providing safe, reliable, affordable power to more than 400,000 Ohio consumer-member households, businesses, and farms means having the strongest hand possible so that Buckeye Power can use the right source at the right time. Each generation source is equally valuable when it’s the right time to play it. 

Pair of kings

Clifty Creek and Kyger Creek plants

Two queens
Jacks of all suits
Jacks of all suits
Stacking the deck

Buckeye Power pursues an all-of-the-above generation strategy, taking into consideration cost, reliability, environmental impact, and more when deciding which cards to pick up and which ones to discard. From coal to natural gas to renewable sources, each one is an important part of keeping power flowing to our members. This month, we take a look at the cards in Buckeye Power’s hand. 

THE ACE: Cardinal Power Plant

Cardinal Power Plant, in Brilliant, Ohio, on the Ohio River, is Buckeye Power’s main baseload source. “Baseload” refers to a plant that is built and designed to run all the time, day and night, seven days a week. That doesn’t mean it’s producing the same amount of energy all the time. Tom Alban, vice president, power generation, of Buckeye Power, says, “Baseload facilities vary their output. There’s a minimum demand and they run to meet that all the time, then ramp up during the day as needed.” This coal-fired plant consists of three units: AEP owns Unit 1, and Buckeye Power owns Units 2 and 3 and manages all three units. Buckeye Power’s combined capacity at Cardinal is 1,210 megawatts. Buckeye Power has heavily invested in emissions control equipment on their units, making Cardinal Plant one of the cleanest power plants of its kind in the world. 

PAIR OF KINGS: Clifty Creek and Kyger Creek plants

Owned by the Ohio Valley Electric Corporation (OVEC), these two coal-fired plants were built in the 1950s to supply power to uranium enrichment facilities for the Department of Defense during the Cold War era. When that operation ceased, the facilities began supplying consumer electricity. Buckeye Power purchased shares of OVEC in the 2000s and now owns an 18% stake. At the time of purchase, Alban says, “our load was growing beyond our capability at Cardinal.” The OVEC shares became available at a time when Buckeye Power saw a need to increase capacity for future load requirements. The purchase also further stabilized long-term wholesale power costs.

Baseload: A generation source that is designed and built to operate 24/7. Once turned on, it typically runs for weeks or months continually. Cardinal, Clifty Creek, and Kyger Creek plants are baseload resources. 

TWO QUEENS: Robert P. Mone Plant and Greenville Generating Station

These two facilities, Buckeye Power’s natural gas peaking plants, are used only when needed to supply extra electricity, usually on the hottest and coldest days of the year. Each staffed by a team of only four and a shared plant manager, the plants are designed to be turned on and off with relatively short lead time. In fact, they can be up and running in only 10 minutes (as opposed to 24 to 48 hours to restart a coal plant that’s offline).

The Mone plant was added to Buckeye Power’s hand in the early 2000s and Greenville was purchased in the mid-2000s. When weather projections demand, staffing schedules are adjusted so the plant will be ready to go the moment it’s needed. 

At Buckeye Power, someone is always watching — hour by hour, a week ahead, 10 years ahead — to make sure Ohio consumer-members’ need for electric power is met today, tomorrow, and years from now. “Supply has to equal demand all the time. That’s a balancing act that goes on all day, every day.” – Tom Alban, Buckeye Power vice president

JACK OF ALL SUITS: Solar, anaerobic digesters, methane generation, and hydropower

OurSolar (2.1 megawatts)

Community solar arrays at electric cooperatives in Ohio are an intermittent source of power, but consumer-members can support renewable energy projects by subscribing to the solar farms as an alternative source of generation.

Anaerobic digesters (4.45 megawatts)

An anaerobic digester breaks down animal waste to extract methane that can be used as fuel for electricity generation. Buckeye Power purchases electricity from four co-op member farms connected to the grid through Consolidated, Midwest, North Western, and Paulding Putnam electric cooperatives.

Methane generation (9.6 megawatts)

As organic garbage decomposes, it also produces methane. The Hancock County Landfill and Suburban Regional Landfill produce power from methane and flow it to the grid through Hancock-Wood Electric Cooperative and South Central Power Company. 

Hydropower (55 megawatts)

Buckeye Power purchases hydropower from the New York Power Authority. NYPA provides power from Niagara Falls and the St. Lawrence-FDR Power Project to publicly owned utilities like electric cooperatives. 

What's missing? 

You may have noticed the absence of two widely known generation sources: nuclear and wind. There are many variables that are considered when making decisions about which generation sources Buckeye Power chooses to invest in. Availability, reliability, forecasted future demand for electricity, and value are just a few of those factors. Generation sources are continually evaluated, and if the variables line up with our mission of providing stable, affordable, and environmentally responsible power to Ohio's electric cooperative consumer-members, Buckeye Power may choose to add cards to its hand. Alban says, "We're better off with renewables closer to where our load is. The price fluctuations in electricity based on supply and demand mean that generating the power in the same place you want to use it makes the most sense for cost stability."