A North Carolina energy project today received the lion's share of federal stimulus funds designated for improving the nation's aging hydroelectric power plants.
The U.S. Department of Energy awarded up to $13 million to Alcoa to replace four 90-year-old turbines at the Tapoco Cheoah plant near the Little Tennessee River in Graham and Swain counties.
The grant will create an additional 22 megawatts of capacity to the Alcoa facility, boosting power output by 23 percent.
The Alcoa grant is more than twice the amount of the next-biggest award -- $6 million to the Alabama Power Co.
Alcoa is the nation's largest aluminum producer and generates its own power for industrial operations.
The Cheoah dam, in Robbinsville, N.C, is part of the Tapoco Hydroelectric Project run by Alcoa Power Generating. The project has four dams – two in western North Carolina and two in Tennessee -- that generate power to operate an aluminum smelting operation in Alcoa, Tenn.