Alabama Power gives foreign visitors tour of Lay Dam

Published 1:54 pm Wednesday, May 30, 2018

By J.R. Tidwell


Sometimes in business, the best way to gain experience and learn new techniques is to seek out advice from other entities in the same field.

Such was the case when Alabama Power hosted a group of visitors from the African nation of Zambia at Lay Dam in Clanton on May 16.

Roger Yeargan, who has been hydro manager for the lower Coosa River system for Alabama Power since 2012, was in charge of giving the visitors some information on Lay Dam and how it is operated.

“We’ve got a group of visitors from the electric utility in Zambia,” Yeargan said. “They are here to visit our project. They have been meeting with some of our cooperate folks. They have been looking at things that are involved with running hydroelectric plants, things like what are the risks involved and how do you cover yourself and train your people to be the journeymen in the plant, how do you operate your plant and run the water through, things like that.”

Zambia is a landlocked country on the southern side of the African continent. It has a population of around 16.5 million people compared to just 4.8 million or so living in Alabama.

The journey from Alabama’s state capital of Montgomery to Lusaka, the capital of Zambia, is about 8,200 miles as the crow flies.

So, how does a group of Zambians end up traveling all the way to Lay Dam in Clanton?

“My understanding is they came through our insurance broker who insures our power plants,” Yeargan said. “That broker insures other companies. Since our insurance broker insures them, they asked where they could go and visit some like-minded plants and talk to people who operate plants like they do in Zambia to gain a better understanding maybe of how they could improve themselves.”

In a fashion befitting this part of the country, the visitors were treated to some Southern hospitality in the form of lunch (which included items like baked chicken or hamburger steak, mashed potatoes and green beans) before the presentation and tour of the dam.

Alabama Power employees asked the group from Zambia if they liked the meal and also inquired as to their opinion of such Southern staples as sweet tea and Grapico soda, which seemed to be thoroughly enjoyed.

After everyone present was finished eating, Yeargan gave his presentation before commencing the tour of the dam.

“I am going to talk to them specifically about Lay Dam,” he said before the tour began. “They went to the corporate office today, and they were given information about our system and about the Georgia and Alabama hydro plants in general. Today, I will hone it down to Lay Dam to help them understand one plant. Then we are going to let them ask questions, and then we will take a tour of the dam.”