A great concrete structure stretches across the Chattahoochee River in Roswell just north of Atlanta like a wall dividing the water. This concrete dam allows operators to control how much water filters through and when. At times, as the water is released over the dam, a thunderous hush dominates the area, and the still waters below are pounded by artificial waterfalls… and ultimately electricity is generated.
That’s where Georgia Highlands College alumnus Victor Harwood steps in.
Victor works as one of the Morgan Falls Hydro Project dam operators. The project is run by Georgia Power, the largest subsidiary of the Southern Company, one of the nation’s largest generators of electricity. The dam project began commercially operating in 1904.
Today, Victor helps operate the dam in a modified run-of-river mode primarily to generate power and to re-regulate peaking flows from the upstream Buford Dam. Right now, Morgan Falls produces up to 16.8 megawatts of electricity and supplies enough energy to power over 10,000 homes a year.
“I work on a rotating 12-hour schedule, and on a typical day at Morgan Falls, it’s my job to maintain and operate equipment,” Victor said. “My most important task at work is to maintain minimum flow of the Chattahoochee River going into Atlanta.”
Victor said his job keeps him on his toes, constantly learning and staying aware while monitoring all the systems related to the dam. If any of the areas go down, it’s his job to get it back online as quickly and safely as possible.
“There is a large spectrum of areas that may cause a plant or unit to trip,” he said. “It can be a stressful time working to get everything back online and requires me to put forth any and all training I have to fix. But I enjoy it.”
Victor is happy to be working for Georgia Power at Morgan Falls, and he’ll be the first to tell you that making his start at GHC helped him get there.
Although Victor didn’t start college right out of high school, he was glad he was able to bring a maturity and hard work ethic to his studies a little later in life.
He spent some time in the military before deciding to earn a college degree. He settled on Georgia Highlands College and found it to be a nice fit.
“I knew that I could get my start at GHC and then pursue finishing a four-year degree from there,” Victor said. “There were many teachers [at GHC] that had an impact on my college experience. The school is a great school and offers students of all ages a good price at a quality learning environment.”