Public Utilities Specialist Susan Worthington spent her first few months at Southwestern learning all she could about the agency and hydropower. She got the opportunity to test her “book learning” (as she calls it in her first-hand account below), when she toured Denison Dam and Powerhouse in November 2022 on assignment from Southwestern Public Affairs.
A Day at Denison
By Susan Worthington
New employees learning the ropes at Southwestern often spend lots of time reading and doing research—let me emphasize lots of reading. As a Public Utilities Specialist in the Division of Power Marketing and Transmission Strategy and as a member of the Southwestern Public Affairs team, it is especially important that I understand not only how Southwestern’s contracts work but also who our customers are, which U.S. Army Corps of Engineers (Corps) hydropower projects are within our marketing area, how the power is generated at the dams, and how that power and energy is transmitted to the over 10 million end users Southwestern serves.
Watching educational videos and reading contracts and other materials lays a good foundation, but nothing compares to getting out to one of the projects and taking a tour of the inner workings of a dam that produces hydropower.
First, I would like to extend a heartfelt, “Thank you!” to the Corps employees who gave us the tour of the Denison Dam facilities. Richard (Rick) Belanger, Denison Powerplant Maintenance Supervisor; Jerad Kellam, Denison Electrician; and Michael Dickey, Fort Gibson Control Center Supervisor escorted us through the powerhouse while explaining how everything works.
My traveling companions, from Southwestern’s Division of Resources and Rates, were Michael Denny, Civil Engineer (Hydrologic), and Troy Coon, Public Utilities Specialist. Members of Rayburn Electric Cooperative, which is one of Southwestern’s customers which receives power and energy from Denison, also joined us on the tour.
We covered the powerhouse inside and out, seeing the main turbine and generator bay, the smaller—albeit still large—turbines and generators used to generate the electricity needed to run the powerhouse, and the new transformers outside the powerhouse.
Our guides even took us underneath the dam and to the bed of Lake Texoma itself through a tunnel that extends between the powerhouse side and the lake side of the dam.
Seeing first-hand the parts of a dam that I had previously only encountered in a slideshow presentation or had learned about from reading online not only solidified the “book learning” I’d done but blew my mind with the sheer scale of the turbines, generator, and transformers. Gaining a better understanding of how the hydropower dams function will allow me to better evaluate our agreements and how we can meet the needs of our customers.
I’m excited to be a part of the team here at Southwestern, helping our region and nation use Federal hydropower to its best advantage.