Rains bring record generation by Xcel hydro projects in Midwest

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Xcel Energy's 20 Wisconsin and Minnesota hydropower plants generated more energy this September than in any previous September, the utility company reported.

The projects provided 130,537 MWh in September, breaking the previous record set in September 2002 by 11,598 MWh.

Substantial rain and runoff were credited for much of the increase in hydro production. The National Weather Service reported Eau Claire recorded 12.3 inches of rain, above normal for the year, through September.

"Seven of our last nine months have been significantly above the 10-year average for hydro generation," Xcel Hydro Operations Manager Scott Crotty said. "...Now our reservoirs are full, rivers and creeks are running strong and the ground is saturated, which is good news for hydro generation."

Crotty also credited preventive maintenance at Xcel's 19 Wisconsin and one Minnesota plant for reducing equipment issues that might result in down time.

"The increase in generation is also a testament to our employees' ability to make sure the facilities on our river systems are running safely and reliably throughout the year," Crotty said.

While many of Xcel's hydro projects date to the 1920s and nine were built more than 100 years ago, the company has continued to upgrade and modernize plant components. Xcel cited the 11.6-MW Dells hydro plant in Eau Claire, which was upgraded in 2009-2010 to reduce the number of turbines from seven to five, while increasing the generating capacity by 35 percent.

Xcel also recently installed new equipment at the 14.245-MW St. Anthony Falls project in Minneapolis and at 7.8-MW Big Falls, 24-MW Chippewa Falls, 5.4-MW Menomonie, 24.6-MW St. Croix Falls and 36.4-MW Wissota, all in Wisconsin.

In a typical year, company-owned or purchased hydropower makes up about 8 percent of the power Xcel provides its nearly 1.7 million electricity customers in Wisconsin, Michigan, Minnesota, North Dakota and South Dakota.

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