Best in the world - for the customers.

Those were two sentiments bandied around on Friday, Oct. 27, as officials from the Grand River Dam Authority and others formally dedicated the new power unit at the Grand River Energy Center known as "GREC 3: Combined Cycle Unit."

The newest addition to the GREC facility is a $500 million project fueled by Oklahoma's natural gas, is designed to provide a "grand and greener" form of energy to GRDA's energy customers for decades.

As he, along with numerous officials from the government and private sector, dedicated the new facility, Dan Sullivan, president and CEO for GRDA, said he expects bigger and better things for the various municipal customers GRDA serves each day.

Sullivan said the project began with a need to help its customers - many of whom remain under contract with GRDA until 2042.

"It's been pointed out to me, that when those contracts expire, GRDA will have a 100 year relationship with many of those communities," Sullivan said. "It's because of their tremendous commitment, and their long term investment, this was possible."

Sullivan said GREC 3's addition of natural gas power, means GRDA now provides electricity using water, gas, coal and wind - four natural resources found within Oklahoma's boarders.

He said it also indicates GRDA's commitment to rural electrification, which began with the establishment of the Pensacola Dam more than 75 years ago, and continues to this day.

Sullivan said Charles Barney, executive vice president of fuel and generation projects for GRDA, helped champion the project, keeping in mind how the unit's output would help customers every day.

"We were not looking for vendors, rather we were looking for partners," Sullivan said, of the companies who helped bring the project to fruition. 

Among the dignitaries speaking as part of the dedication ceremony, Congressman Markwayne Mullin (R-Oklahoma), Michael Teague, secretary of energy and environment for the state of Oklahoma and Ken Wagner, senior advisor for regional affairs with the Environmental Protection Agency.

Those representing the energy partners - who helped with the various phases of the construction - included Takato Nishizawa, vice chairman for Mitsubishi Hitachi Power Systems LTD, Paul Browning, president/CEO of Mitsubishi Hitachi Power Systems Americas, and John Johnson, vice president of Black & Veatch.

Mullin said the new unit, which has been in process since the groundbreaking on Jan. 23, 2015, is an example of what happens when Washington, D.C., bureaucracy gets out of the way of an entrepreneur spirit. 

"GRDA [officials] have shown over and over it's not just investing in today, but in the future," Mullin said. "It's investing, using our state's own resources."

Mullin said Oklahomans should be proud of what this power unit will mean to the state - as the first of its kind in the Western Hemisphere.

"We're a fly-over state, but we are leading the industry," Mullin said. "Everyone else will stand up and take notice. This is something we can hang our hat on."

Teague said the effort helps GRDA officials fulfill Gov. Mary Fallin's energy policies which includes the statement "all of the above" - factoring in the use of gas, wind and water.

"This [plant] is really the future of our state," Teague said.

Wagner agreed, saying as native of northeast Oklahoma, he was proud to see GRDA officials lead the way in developing efficient and reliable sources of energy.

Nishizawa, who traveled from Japan for the event, told the crowd he believed the dedication served as a memorable moment, because the M501J, 60-hertz combined cycle unit, was like his "baby" preparing for its next chapter in life.

He said he hoped the GREC 3 Combined Cycle Unit would serve as a "showcase for success" for both GRDA and Mitsubishi Hitachi, adding he hoped the relationship established between the two entities would continue for the coming years.

In his remarks, Browning told the crowd the GREC 3 unit had already beat expectations, as recent performance testing indicates the unit has achieved a 62 percent combined cycle efficiency. It is the first 60-hertz combined cycle power plant in the world to earn the rating.

"For those in the business, it's hard to fathom those results," Browning said.  "To develop this unit we had to create new materials, new alloys and new technology."

Browning also announced, thanks to GRDA bringing the project to America, Mitsubishi Hitachi Power Systems Americas will export the first two turbines from the United States to Mexico in the coming days. 

Tom Kimball, vice chairman of the GRDA board of directors, and a Grove area resident, said he was thrilled to see the unit become fully operational.

"This is an amazing project," Kimball said. "We're going to be in all of the industry magazines for having the most efficient plan tin the world."

Kimball believes people from around the world will travel to the Grand River Energy Center in Chouteau to see how the gas turbine generator works, and how it is part of the GRDA facility.

"People are going to want to see what we have achieved," Kimball said, adding it is just one more piece of the combined efforts of officials within the Grand Lake region, to put northeast Oklahoma into the national spotlight.

"To be able to stand up and say we are the best in the world is pretty exciting," Kimball said.

More about the Unit

The Mitsubishi Hitachi Power Systems M501J is an advanced-class gas turbine. It is the first ever deployed in the Western Hemisphere.

It was the first “J-class” turbine to be constructed by MHPS at the Savannah. Georgia Machinery Works facility. TIC was the lead contractor on the unit construction project with Black & Veatch serving as project engineer.

The unit, which first produced power on March 18, 2017, has a design capacity of 495 megawatts. The M501J combustion turbine has a firing temperature of 2912 degrees fahrenheit, and has a compression ratio of 23:1.

The steam turbine generator has 29 turbine stages, and the heat recovery steam generator has HP Steam - 875,000 kpph, 2400 psia and reaches 1050 degrees fahrenheit, while the transformer has 345,000 volts.

GRDA officials broke ground on the Unit 3 construction project in January 2015, as part of the board of director's plan to adopt a "new, long-term electric generation plan."

Officials say Unit 3 will bring greater diversity to that portfolio which also includes coal, hydro, wind and other gas generation. It will provide electricity to 15 GRDA municipal customer communities across Oklahoma, as well as more than 80 industrial customers within the MidAmerica Industrial Park (MAIP) and other off-system customers.

Directly or indirectly, GRDA electricity reaches into 75 of 77 counties in Oklahoma as well as Kansas, Missouri and Arkansas.