Mississippi Power’s Plant Watson fully restored, ready for summer peaking season

Employees at Mississippi Power’s Plant Watson in Gulfport recently completed all repairs to the facility, bringing the plant back to full operational status. The facility suffered significant damage due to flooding during Hurricane Katrina last year.

During the height of the storm, which cut a path straight through the company’s service territory, more than 16 million gallons of water filled Plant Watson’s lower levels, reaching a depth of nearly 20 feet. While the facility’s main components, such as the turbine generators and boilers, were not damaged, nearly all of the electronic controls and water pumps that operate the plant’s five units were affected.

Restoration efforts included inspecting, repairing and testing thousands of switches and electronic connections, hundreds of relaying and metering devices, 8000 cables, 370 AC/DC motors and 43 pumps. The plant’s free standing combustion turbine also sustained damage and has been repaired.

Company employees and outside contracting crews worked 24 hour days after the storm and restored Unit 4, a 250-megawatt coal-fired unit, to operational status within 46 days. Unit 5, a 500-megawatt coal-fired unit that comprises nearly half of the plant’s output, was returned to service just before the end of the year. Repairs to the plant’s three smaller units, used primarily to meet summer peaking demand, were completed May 31.

“Despite facing one of the worst recovery situations in the company’s history, plant employees completed these repairs in record time and with no significant accidents,” said President and CEO Anthony Topazi. “This is an exemplary accomplishment, especially in light of the personal losses so many employees have also been dealing with.”

Approximately ten percent of the plant’s 200 employees totally lost their homes to the storm. Many more suffered significant losses.

“Our employees worked countless long hours making personal sacrifices to achieve this accomplishment,” said Plant Watson Manager Sam Sumner. “In addition to making the overall repairs, they performed major maintenance outages this spring on Units 4 and 5, also without any recordable accidents. That is superior performance.”

Mississippi Power, a Southern Company subsidiary, serves customers in 23 southeast Mississippi counties. The company earned a 2006 Edison Award, the electric utility industry’s most prestigious honor, for restoration efforts after Hurricane Katrina.