SWBNO Power Complex

The Bedrock of New Orleans' Water Future

You know the Sewerage and Water Board of New Orleans (SWBNO) as a water, wastewater, and drainage utility. But, you might not know that behind the scenes, we're also our own power utility.

Because New Orleans is flat, water does not flow through pipes or canals on its own. Our drinking water, wastewater, and drainage systems rely on large pumps, and those pumps need electricity. To complicate matters, many of our pumps are over a century old. They use a special form of electricity that Entergy does not produce – 25 Hz instead of 60 Hz – so we have had to do it ourselves.

SWBNO creates most of this electricity with steam and combustion turbine generators built between 1915 and 2012. But running the city's water, wastewater, and drainage systems on 100-year-old power equipment is not sustainable. We completed a Power Master Plan in 2020 to identify the best path forward. We knew the answer needed to be cost-effective – in recognition of many needs – and reliable – in recognition of the realities of our topography and climate.

The Power Complex is that answer. This facility is the future home of:

  • A dedicated substation to draw power directly from Entergy's transmission grid,
  • Three static frequency changers (SFCs) to convert modern electricity to the type of power our older pumps can use, and
  • Modern turbine generators to produce reliable, efficient backup power on-site.

Connecting directly to Entergy's transmission grid will provide a more economical and cleaner power source for everyday use. The modern turbine generators will provide reliable backup power if needed. We are excited for the resources to construct a modern Power Complex that will place power generation for our utility in the hands of a true power utility, Entergy.

The development, design, and construction of the Power Complex is a large, two-phased capital program. Phase 1 will allow for the basic use of grid power from Entergy and add a new turbine generator to our in-house fleet. Full build-out in Phase 2 will include a new state-of-the-art operations center and final system configuration.

At present, we're nearly finished the design for Phase 1, and our teams are developing and refining cost estimates and schedule projections to reflect the program's needs and current market conditions.

Phase 1
Basic use of Entergy grid power utilizing two frequency changers and the addition of a new turbine to our in-house fleet.

  • Anticipated completion: by peak hurricane season of 2025
  • Anticipated cost: around $255 million

We began construction work in December 2022. SWBNO has identified funding sources for the entirety of Phase 1. However, the final cost and completion date will depend on supply chain availability, manufacturing timeframes, and actual construction days based on weather and other factors.

Phase 2
Full build-out with a new state-of-the-art operations center and final system configuration.

  • Anticipated completion: Late 2026 (funding dependent)
  • Anticipated cost: An additional $50 million
    • This cost estimate does not include Turbines 8 and 9 currently

With even the partial opening of the Power Complex, our customers can have more confidence that power will be available to operate our water and drainage pumps during storms.


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