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WNDU: Hydroelectric turbine saving South Bend on electric costs; More hydroelectric potential for South Bend September 11, 2012

Posted by Laura Arnold in Indiana Michigan Power Company (I&M), Net Metering, Uncategorized.
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Click this link for video from WNDU Channel 16 > Hydroelectric turbine saving South Bend on electric costs.

Reporter: Frank WaughEmail; Aug. 22, 2012

Better late than never, a hydroelectric turbine purchased in the early 80’s, was finally installed in Downtown South Bend. Now this new installation will soon be saving money for the city.

After sitting since 1983, in a warehouse, this bright blue turbine has found it’s home.

“We took it out of storage in early 2011, refurbished the unit,” says Jon Burke the Municipal Energy Director “It is exciting to stand here now and know that, the turbine is down in this pin stock right now and it is going to be working for the city very soon.”

The turbine was installed along the fish ladder in Seitz Park, while it is in place there is still a good deal of work that must be done.

“There are a lot of little bugs we need to work out,” says Burke. “We will start up the commissioning system over the next two to three weeks and provided we don’t run into anymore unknowns we have had plenty of those so far.”

While some of the bugs have slowed the project, some have actually been a good thing.

“Originally the paper work on the turbine called it a 45 kilowatt unit,” explains Burke. “When we took the turbine in to have it refurbished we discovered it was a 62.9 kilowatt unit, which is significantly more power. That lead us to have to redesign a number of things with our distribution network and our arrangement with I&M we had to upgrade the capacity of this unit.”

That power will be put to good use in Howard Park, powering the Human Rights Building, the ice rink, the rec center and even the lights along the East Race and there will still be some left over.

“We are going to produce about 100,000 kilowatt hours a year more than we are going to need,” says Burke. “We are doing what is called a net-metering agreement with Indiana Michigan Power. And the net-metering agreement allows us to put energy directly into the grid or use it in our facility either way. At times when we are producing more energy than we need that extra energy will go into the grid and we will be credited for that energy. At times when we are using more energy than we are actually producing, we will be drawing down the credits in the grid.”

That agreement will allow the city to use every drop of energy and stack up some serious savings.

“That is worth about $40,000 a year to the city,” explains Burke.

So you might be wondering what this cost the city. Total installation costs were around $268,000. A federal grant covered all but $26,000; a cost that John says will be recouped in six to seven months from the use of the turbine.

More hydroelectric potential for South Bend < Click this link to view another WNDU video.

Reporter: Frank WaughEmail; Sept. 7, 2012

A hydroelectric turbine purchased in the 1980s has finally been installed in Setiz Park and will soon be cranking out energy savings of around $40,000 a year for the city. That might just be the tip of the iceberg for hydroelectric power in South Bend.

“South Bend has a rich history of hydropower,” says Jon Burke the Municipal Energy Director. “The early industry along the East Race was powered along the East Race with hydropower and it has been a long time since we have actually utilized hydropower along the river here in South Bend. So this is step one in the process to get the small turbine in.”

Step two is a little larger and like the original turbine it was started back in the early 80s.

“Around the same time the Fish Ladder was built the city had the foresight to secure and exemption from the federal energy regulatory commission that allows the city to build a 1.7 megawatt unit, right here along the Seitz Park area,” explains Burke.

That is about 27 times larger than the recently installed unit, and the means a lot more power.

“That is a utility scale hydro installation and that will produce enough power potential to power the cities 10 largest buildings,” says Burke. “It is worth about a million dollars a year to the city in energy costs. So my hope is that this being step one that we can find a way as a city to move to step two and build this larger facility.”

“I see great potential in expanding on this great experiment,” says Mayor Pete Butigieg. “We have this turbine here. It is enough to power a few buildings, a no brainer for the city. Taking it to the next level could mean a million dollars a year and good clean energy. We have got this great river, there just aren’t a lot of cities that have a river running through the middle of them and have this opportunity with the regulatory exemptions, so we have to pull together some money before we can make it happen but if we get it right we are going to make that money back for the city and I am very excited about the potential to do it.”

As for the price tag of making it power multiple buildings.

“It is going to take some creativity,” says Burke. “It is in the neighborhood of a $15 million project, so we have to be creative to figure out a business model that works. But it is something that I really feel that we have to do.”

“Once we have the funding together it takes two to three years to actually make it happen,” says Mayor Butigieg. “There are a lot of bits and pieces when you get into utilities, it gets unbelievably complicated. So we have got to make sure we can do it right. There is a feasibility study going on right now, funds were committed to that. That is helping us charge away forward. I tell yeah, it can’t come soon enough, based on what we are already seeing with this small hydro project.”

Original plans for the project place the facility over Setiz Park. Burke says they would remove the park, and then rebuild the park on top of the turbines. While a majority of the facility would be underground, the original plans did call for a walkway that would allow the public to view the turbines on one side and the Fish Ladder on the other side.

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