New Lowman Energy Center will help West Florida Electric Cooperative remain reliable for years to come

PowerSouth Energy Cooperative, a generation & transmission cooperative serving West Florida Electric Cooperative’s wholesale power needs, officially dedicated the new and state-of-the-art Lowman Energy Center (LEC) in a special ceremony on March 22. 

Alabama Gov. Kay Ivey attended the event to celebrate the 710-megawatt natural gas facility, which began commercial operation on Sept. 20, 2023. 

“History is being made today,” Ivey said of LEC’s completion. “America’s future is dependent upon its access to abundant industry, including electricity. Economic development and thousands of new, good-paying jobs, both here in Alabama and for our neighbors in Florida, are directly tied to projects like the Lowman Energy Center.” 

Alabama Gov. Kay Ivey addresses the crowd at the Lowman Energy Center dedication. Seated from left to right are PowerSouth Board of Trustees Chairman Tom Duncan, LEC Maintenance Technician Daryl Batley, PowerSouth Board of Trustees Secretary/Treasurer Tom Stackhouse, PowerSouth Vice President of External Affairs Taylor Williams, PowerSouth President & CEO Gary Smith, PowerSouth WesternGeneration Plant Manager Gabe Cartee, and PowerSouth Board of Trustees Vice Chairman Earl Johnson. [CONTRIBUTED]

West Florida Electric Cooperative’s Executive Vice President and CEO, Shawn Walling, and Board President, Joe Rone, were on site to celebrate the dedication of the plant, which replaces the historic coal-fired Charles R. Lowman Power Plant that had operated for 51 years. 

“The opening of LEC is a tremendous accomplishment for PowerSouth and West Florida Electric’s membership,” a news release said. “Today, there is much talk of renewable energy, which has its place in our generation portfolio. LEC represents reliable, clean, and dispatchable power for our members.”

Dispatchable is electric utility talk for “we can turn it on when we want, we can turn it off when we want, and we can control how much electricity it makes.”

“This control is not available for wind and solar generation,” the news release said. “During the heat of the summer and cold of the winter, dispatchable generation, like LEC, is what keeps the lights on and your heat and AC running. The natural gas that fuels LEC is abundant, and for the most part, affordable.”

PowerSouth’s President & CEO, Gary Smith, said the plant will be a workhorse in supporting the cooperative’s mission to provide reliable and affordable power to its members.  

“LEC is not only very efficient, but it also has access to a very good, affordable gas supply,” Smith said. “PowerSouth has 20 members in Alabama and Florida, and I want to thank them for their confidence and support in allowing us to move forward in building this plant. It will be there for them to serve their wholesale power needs for decades. We are excited about LEC, and excited about the future.”

Collectively, PowerSouth provides power to West Florida Electric Cooperative and 19 other distribution members, and these members supply safe, reliable, affordable power to more than a million end-of-line members.