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SWEPCO Independent Monitor Services

Garver serves as reporting agent during power plant construction

The Southwestern Electric Power Company (SWEPCO), a subsidiary of American Electric Power Company, Inc. hired Garver as an Independent Monitor for the construction of a combustion turbine generating facility in Tontitown, Ark.

The Arkansas Public Service Commission—an agency that regulates public utility rates and services—directed SWEPCO to hire a qualified monitor without a vested interest. The Independent Monitor would act as an on-site liaison informing the Commission of the project's progress and analyzing it against the power company's original self-build proposal. The AEP/SWEPCO requested that the monitor submit quarterly reports through a secure electronic information-exchange room on the Internet. The PSC mandated that the reports reflect and explain changes in the project's bid amount, construction, siting, environmental impact and additional factors.

"We were selected because of our expertise in power systems and power transmission," explained Garver Project Leader Alan Miner. "We were tasked with evaluating whether SWEPCO was meeting the specifications laid out in its original proposal and we reviewed the cost and schedule performance."

Although Garver had never functioned as a monitoring agent, the engineers were able to harvest from an extensive stockpile of construction administration and mechanical/electrical engineering experience. Miner said he couldn't find a suitable exposition technique to adopt and elected to originate a monitoring process which was both in-depth and would meet the PSC's reporting standards.

"There was very little guidance out there and not much to glean from," Miner said. "I developed my own format and fleshed it out to meet the Commission's approval."

Miner submitted quarterly reports detailing SWEPCO's estimated expenses against the committed and projected costs, assessed the project's construction schedule, reported contract change orders and chronicled Garver's monthly site visits.

In the multiple-page reports, Garver offered an executive summary abridging the quarterly findings, provided detailed tables and site photographs, and supplied an easy-to-read-and-review reporting format.

In addition, Garver reviewed various project contracts to become more familiar with the project, including land acquisition, Engineering Procurement and Construction, turbine acquisition, gas line and water line extensions, and transmission interconnection.

Garver and AEP/SWEPCO serviced an eRoom to exchange and access project information. After typing in a password supplied via satellite communication, which changed every minute, approved officials could access documents, discussions, e-mails and other project-oriented material in a secure workplace.

After providing three of five quarterly reports, Garver handed over its monitoring services to a second firm to avoid a conflict of interest. SWEPCO hired Garver in 2007 to provide preliminary and detailed engineering and design services for an offsite railroad spur track and roadway relocations at the John W. Turk, Jr. Power Plant in southwest Arkansas. To avoid a possible perception that the Independent Monitor Reports weren't providing fair and objective information, Garver passed along the monitoring torch.

SWEPCO completed the Harry D. Mattison Power Plant Project in December 2007 which provides peaking generation capacity at the Tontitown facility. Two simple-cycle, natural gas-fueled combustion turbines were relocated to the site and became operation in July 2007. An additional two new turbines were installed and began servicing the area last December.

The units have an initial combined capacity of 300 megawatts, and after additional testing, will increase another 40 megawatts. Referred to as a peaking facility, the power plant will primarily be used to help meet greater power demand during summer months when there is more need for air conditioning and electricity.

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