It looks like a concrete house next to an upside-down waterfall, but the newly dedicated Jordanelle Dam hydroelectric plant will supply over 8,000 Heber homes with green energy.
The upside down waterfall is the exploding spill-over from the reservoir, but it’s not all of it. Since July 1, water from the spillway has been spinning electric turbines.
"This is a classic example of a win-win," said Christine Finlinson, government affairs director of the Central Utah Water Conservancy District. "Water has to be released here anyway, it makes sense to harness some of that and use it."
The dam was designed with a hydropower plant in mind, but when the project was completed in 1993, there was no purchaser for the electricity. Since 2000, the Conservancy District has been in agreement with Heber Light and Power to build the plant and sell the electricity to Heber.
Construction began in 2006 and the two turbines began spinning in early July of this year generating up to 12 megawatts. Governor Jon Huntsman Jr., and Rep. Christ Cannon, R-Utah, presided over the dedication ceremony on August 27.
How much water comes down the spill-way is dictated by down-river users like farmers. The plant cannot request more water for more electricity; the generating has to be completely incidental, said Paul Pierpont of the Conservancy District giving tours on Wednesday.
The plant is not a money-making venture, but will pay for itself over time.
"Our country needs to be conscious of the ever-increasing need for energy and whenever clean, renewable energy is available, it’s a benefit to the environment," Finlinson said.
Careful engineering was required to preserve the ecosystem of the river. Temperature sensors in the reservoir and in the river make sure the water coming out of the dam is the same temperature as the river to prevent warming.
John Kenworthy, co-owner of the Heber Valley RV Park just down the street on the Old Highway 40 couldn’t be more pleased.
The dam along with the water-treatment plant being constructed to the south of the park will allow him and his partner, Chay Eysser, to install plumbing and develop the remaining 30 acres of their 40 acre property into a river resort.
"The real miracle is the way they’ve piggy-backed with other agencies," he said. "We have a top-notch facility and this river is phenomenal now."
Kenworthy’s excitement was obvious during a tour Wednesday as he entered the control room overlooking the pipes and turbines.
"It’s like being in a James Bond movie!" he said.
The project cost over $20 million for the construction of the powerhouse as well as the electrical transmission facilities.
Jordanelle Dam Hydropower Project
Begun Sept. 2006
Completed July 2008
Power capacity: 12 megawatts
Homes supplied: 8-9,000
Operated by Heber Light and Power
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