Carl S. Whillock Station
The Carl S. Whillock Hydroelectric Station is also known as the Whillock Station and the Whillock Dam. It is a hydroelectric power plant that uses a dam on the Arkansas River near Morrilton to generate electricity. Construction of the Whillock Dam was completed by the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers in 1949 as part of the McClellan-Kerr Arkansas River Navigation Project. This and the other Arkansas River dams were not created with electricity generation in mind. The primary purposes of the project, the largest undertaken by the Army Corps of Engineers at the time, were recreation, flood control, and improved navigation for military and commercial vessels.
Hydroelectric power was not considered important at the time because fossil fuels were abundant and inexpensive at the time. A hydroelectric plant was considered a great financial risk. Going against the grain and looking at the long-term benefits and potential profit, the Arkansas Electric Cooperative Corporation (AECC) finally put up the capital and applied for the federal license necessary to begin construction of the plant in 1978. Most of the hydroelectric plants along the Arkansas River are still owned and operated by AECC today.
AECC began construction of its first hydroelectric plant on the Arkansas River, the Thomas B. Fitzhugh Generating Station near the city of Ozark, in 1961. Before building the Whillock Station, the company built the Carl E Bailey Generating Station in 1963 and the John L. McClellan Generating Station near Camden in 1971. These three prior plants were run on natural gas or fuel oil. Today, the Whillock Station is one of 11 total power plants owned by AECC. These plants produce a grand total of 2,977 megawatts of electricity.
The Whillock Dam is rated at a maximum of 32.4 megawatts of electricity. However, the actual dependable output of the plant is only 17 megawatts. The turbines of the plant have a maximum revolutions per minute of just over 77, while the generator can achieve 900 revolutions per minute. The total annual output of the plant is 134,000 megawatt-hours.
Despite the plant’s efficiency and reliance on renewable resources, Whillock Station, like all power plants, contains machinery that must operate at extreme temperatures in order to produce power. Because of this, many power plants constructed in the 1960s and 1970s contained large amounts of asbestos-containing insulation to protect both machines and workers. Unfortunately, this asbestos was actually very dangerous to the health of employees and even small amounts of exposure can cause serious diseases.