Post by Dan Kolbet
Oftentimes a hydro dam looks like a block of earth and cement, just holding back water. Not much happening, right? Well, peel back the layers and you’ll find an incredibly high-tech operation that is constantly in motion.
As Avista’s largest single generation facility, the Noxon Rapids Dam in Montana is an impressive structure that has been in operation more than 50 years. But just like your house, after 50 years, it’s due for some upgrades.
One of the upgrades currently underway is the replacement of the turbine runner for Unit 3
in the dam. The dam’s five units are capable of producing as much as 548 megawatts of clean, renewable electricity. Unit 3 generates about 100 megawatts of electricity by itself.
On Wednesday, Oct. 28 I was at the dam and produced a video
about the removal of the turbine runner – the massive section of the unit that is spun by water. Avista Electric Foreman Howard Johnson actually let me go inside the penstock (well-supervised) to see the final preparations for the removal of the turbine.
The penstock is normally filled with rushing water that slams into the turbine. It was a little creepy climbing through the tiny porthole to get in – I’m not shy about saying that. But today the penstock was filled with workers getting the turbine ready for removal and prepped for its replacement. The new turbine, which should be in around March will produce more electricity than its predecessor – saving customers money.
Upgrading our electric system isn’t just about power lines or the things you see every day, it’s also where the power comes from, like hydro dams. Most people don’t get to see work like this, so I produced this video to show the final prep work and removal of the Unit 3’s turbine.
The video shows some of the damage and maintenance on the turbine over the last 50 years and why a new one is prudent. Check out the video.
So the next time I write something about upgrading our system, think about this massive 250,000-pound turbine being lifted across the deck of the dam all in the name of producing hydro electricity better and cheaper for customers.