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Business North - The Daily Briefing - Business Newspaper Online
Minnesota Power to fully restore flood-damaged hydro system
Minnesota Power expects to have its largest hydroelectric generating station, which has been out of service since ravaged by June 2012 flooding, partially back into operation by the end of this year and fully restored in 2014, the division of ALLETE said Tuesday.
Major repairs are underway at the utility’s 106-year-old Thomson Hydro Station in Jay Cooke Park. The 10 inches of rain flooded the six turbines, overtopped the Thompson reservoir and breached a portion of an earth dike at the forebay, a reservoir that feeds the power station.
“The significance of this localized event was striking,” Minnesota Power Chief Operating
Officer Brad Oachs said in a news release. “We saw peak river flows of 56,000 cubic feet per second, which was 40 percent above previous record flows. Our employees performed admirably under extremely challenging circumstances.”
Slowing reconstruction were washed out roads and mudslides that have sharply reduced access to the powerhouse wither by foot or on all-terrain vehicles.
The Thomson facility, capable of generating 72 megawatts, is the largest hydro facility in the state of Minnesota and an important part of the company’s EnergyForward strategy, which calls for a balanced, less carbon-intensive energy portfolio, the company said.
“Investing in repairs and other improvements to strengthen the system against future flood events will position Thomson as a reliable and cost effective emission free resource for the next 100 years,” Oachs said.
Repairs to the forebay are estimated to cost $25 million. The company is investing about $35 million in improvements to harden the system against future flooding
Minnesota Power said it expects to file a rate increase request with the state this year to recover capital expenditures related to the restoration and repair of the Thomson facility and related St. Louis River hydro system projects.
A major component of the forebay reconstruction is expected to get underway in August. Sheets of steel will be placed into the ground to reinforce almost 3,000 feet of rebuilt earthen embankment. A new permanent concrete spillway also will be installed at the breach site.
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