C. H. Corn Hydroelectric Generating Station
- Year built - 1929
- Primary fuel used - Water
- Power capacity - 11 MW (megawatts)
- Located - 20 miles southwest of Tallahassee
The C. H. Corn Hydroelectric power generating plant is one of only two hydroelectric plants in the state of Florida. Operated by the City of Tallahassee Electric Utility Services, the Corn Hydro Plant is saving money for City of Tallahassee electric customers, helping to further the City's commitment to renewable energy sources and protecting the environment ... all at the same time.
Florida Power operated the facility until 1970, when it was abandoned as a power plant and turned over to the Florida Department of Natural Resources, who managed the dam, without producing power, through 1981. That year, the City of Tallahassee applied for and received a federal grant to rebuild and operate the dam as a hydroelectric demonstration project. The City completely refurbished the dam and power plant and reinstalled generators. The plant became operational in August, 1985 and was formally dedicated on April 4, 1986. The facility was named in honor of Clemer H. “Clem” Corn, the Electric Utility's supervisor of power production, who served in that capacity since 1972, and spearheaded efforts to reactivate the dormant facility.
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Please call 891.4YOU (4968) for more information.
How a Hydroelectric Plant Works
An electric power generator is nothing more than a huge magnet spinning inside a huge coil of wire. The most common way to drive electric generators is to connect them to a turbine powered by steam, and that's the way most power plants in Florida work. But there are other ways to turn a turbine, and one of them is with water. In a hydroelectric plant, the water that is held up behind the dam is pushing forward with a lot of force. Water is routed through the dam in a huge pipe, spinning a turbine placed in the middle of the pipe. The spinning turbine is connected by a drive shaft to a generator located in the dam's powerhouse directly above the turbine. The drive shaft spins the generator's big magnet inside its coil of wire, generating electricity.
The hydro plant's three generators are capable of a maximum output of 12 megawatts when there is adequate water available to operate all three of the dam's turbines.
Generating Power With Water
The energy to turn the turbine, and generator, is provided by gravity pulling the water down through the dam, so no fuel is necessary.
Since no fuel is burned, there are no pollutants released into the environment.
It's Essentially Inexhaustible
Within the limits of the water supply (see "disadvantage" below), the power source will keep replenishing itself.
Generating Savings For Customers
At maximum output during high water periods, the Corn Hydro Plant is capable of providing Tallahassee with a constant 12 megawatts of electricity output, but on an average day, it's about 3 megawatts. Tallahassee requires about 425 megawatts of electricity on a typical day, so the power provided by the hydro plant isn't a huge percentage of the City's requirements. But seen another way, the power produced by the plant, using only water power, saves over a half million dollars in fuel per year, a significant fuel cost savings for the customers of Tallahassee's electric utility.
So the next time you get chased in out of the rain, remember there's a silver lining in the rain clouds. A great deal of the rain water that falls on Tallahassee flows into Lake Talquin and eventually through the turbines of the Lake Talquin dam, sending inexpensive electricity back to your home - courtesy of the City of Tallahassee's C. H. Corn Hydroelectric Plant.
There is one drawback, the amount of electricity that can be generated is limited by the amount of water available. The Corn Plant has three turbines, and running even one of them requires a lot of water. Often, the amount of water running through just one turbine is enough to supply the needs of the river below the dam. The plant's three turbines are each connected to a giant electricity generator. The number of generators that can be used at one time, and the amount of power that can generated is determined by how much water is allowed to pass through the dam, and that is determined by how much recent rainfall there has been in the area which drains into Lake Talquin.
So the amount of water behind the dam determines how much power can be produced. A difference of just a few inches in depth behind the dam can be the difference between generating a lot of electricity, or none at all.
The Most Environmentally Friendly Way To Produce Electricity
When we use water power to generate electricity, money isn't the only thing we're saving. The power plant co-exists in wonderful harmony with its environment. The area surrounding the dam is home to a wide array of animals, especially birds like herons, ospreys and egrets. Fish are so plentiful in the waters above and below the dam that researchers from the Game and Freshwater Fish Commission use the river and reservoir as a huge research lab.
Aside from producing electricity or providing flood control, one beneficial side effect of the dam is the beautiful lake that was created - Lake Talquin - stretching some 14 miles back towards Tallahassee. In fact, one of the City's primary objectives in managing the dam is to maintain Lake Talquin as a recreational lake and to preserve this beautiful environment. There is great fishing both above and below the dam, and on summer weekends, the lake is alive with recreational skiers and boaters.
Lake Talquin's normal lake level is 68.5 feet. There is not a "flood stage" level for the lake per se. By contract with the State, during normal operations the lake cannot fluctuate more than 1 foot in either direction. The lake is typically within a couple of inches of the 68.5 feet at all times during normal operations. During high water flow events, we will sometimes drop the lake level anywhere from a couple of inches to the 1-foot below normal to allow for room for the incoming flows. This allows us to minimize the flooding downstream. We can go more than the 2 foot bandwidth during emergencies.