The 150 tons of swirled stainless steel assembled at Ice Harbor Dam near Burbank is a “beautiful blend of engineering and art,” said Kevin Crum, project manager for the Army Corps of Engineers.
Three of Ice Harbor’s six turbines date to 1961.
Rather than replace them with newer turbines for efficient hydropower generation, the decision was made to use the replacement project as a test for reducing harm to juvenile fish.
Most fish pass over the dam’s spillway, go through a spillway weir or go around the dam via a bypass. The remaining 5 percent come downstream through the turbine and can become disoriented or injured. Some don’t make it out alive.
They face two dangers: slamming into the steel blades or dramatic changes in pressure.
The new turbine is designed to provide more uniform water flow and pressure through the turbine.
Salmon and steelhead are less likely to bang into a turbine blade.
There also is less stress on a balloon-like organ, the swim bladder, which helps a fish maintain buoyancy. A sudden shift in pressure can make it inflate suddenly, causing internal injuries.
Efficiency in hydropower generation has not been ignored.
Tests with models of the new fixed-blade turbine show that it may increase power generation by 3 percent to 4 percent.
When all three of the turbines are installed, the increase in power generation should be enough to supply electricity to about 3,000 homes, said Mark Gendron, senior vice president of power services for the Bonneville Power Administration.
The stainless steel blades of the new turbines are expected to better resist pitting and corrosion than the original steel turbines, lasting longer and requiring less maintenance.
Installing the first blade is expected to take up to 14 months. It should be operating in 2017, and the second high-tech turbine should replace another of the dam’s ageing turbines in 2018.
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