Voith Hydro $140MM turbine overhaul for Bonneville Dam increases power output, protects natural resources

Source: Voith Hydro

Voith Hydro's first-of-its-kind patented fish friendly hydropower turbines are giving new life to the Bonneville Dam, after more than 70 years of providing clean, renewable energy to the Pacific Northwest. 

The Bonneville First Powerhouse, which has been harnessing hydropower from the Columbia River since the late 1930s, underwent a $140 million upgrade to its turbines. The project, which started in 1993, was just celebrated in a public ceremony last week. 

"Overall we are able to get about 15 percent more electricity out of this powerhouse when running at full capacity," said Scott Clemans with the Army Corps of Engineers. 

The U.S. Army Corps of Engineers, which oversees the Bonneville Dam, hired Voith Hydro to install its patented fish friendly Kaplan turbine, a design that minimizes the number of surfaces for potential fish injury. These state-of-the-art turbines have shown an increase in migratory fish survivability. In fact, the survivability of juvenile fish passage at Bonneville is now over 95 percent, said Mark Garner, President and CEO of Voith Hydro York, which manufactures the turbines on its major production site in York, Pa. 

As turbines age, Garner said it's crucial to replace existing equipment with modern, more eco-friendly models. 

"Currently, America gets 7 percent of its electricity from hydroelectric power, and this could increase to 11 percent by simply retrofitting existing hydropower plants," Garner said at Tuesday's event. "Given this enormous potential, hydropower will undoubtedly be a cornerstone of America's clean energy future." 

Garner also spoke of the overall potential of hydropower as a renewable energy source, highlighting its enormous future potential as a vital part of the U.S. energy production. 

"There are nearly 80,000 dams in the United States and just 3 percent are used to produce electricity, giving us the potential to generate an additional 60,000 megawatts to our nation's electric grid over the next 15 years and add more than 700,000 U.S. jobs," Garner said. 

The completed $140 million project allows the Bonneville First Powerhouse to provide stability to the power grid, and reliable, economical hydropower to the western United States for decades to come, not to mention addressing the environmental issues related to endangered and threatened fish species. 

"With 10 new Voith Hydro Kaplan turbines installed, this will go a long way in protecting the wild salmon and other fish in the Columbia River," said Garner. "We're thrilled the legacy of the Bonneville Dam can continue for generations to come."

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