A perspective from Oregon’s mid-Willamette Valley

Albany hydro: Why it’s currently shut down

Written April 1st, 2021 by Hasso Hering

The outfall of the Albany hydropower plant: Quiet on March 25; nothing going on.

Speaking of electricity, what about Albany’s small hydropower plant on the Calapooia River at the end of the Santiam Canal?

You can see the turbine shaft and the outfall from the Third Avenue bridge. The last few times I came up that way from Bryant Way, the turbine was not turning and the outfall, which makes the river churn when the plant is operating, was quiet.

I checked with the city and got an update from Kristin Preston, the operations manager in Public Works.

Turns out the lone 500 kw generator in the powerhouse has been shut down since March 1.

The flow in the canal has been reduced below the amount needed to power the turbine for three main reasons: A survey is being done along sections of the banks where slides have to be repaired. A Linn County crew has been working on the bridge on Three Lakes Road, cleaning up storm debris. And the intake at the Vine Street water treatment plant is being modified as part of a construction project.

Preston says they hope to resume generating electricity in the next two weeks and then continue until June, when the Santiam River flow declines. Albany’s federal power license says the plant can’t operate when the river drops below 1,100 cubic feet per second.

During the five to six months a year that the generator is operating, its output is sold to Pacific Power, earning the city between $7,000 and $34,000 a month. Annual revenue has ranged from $54,000 to $95,000, with an average around $70,000 a year.

As demonstrated by the need occasionally to repair or even shore up the banks of the 18-mile canal, maintenance costs never stop. Whatever the hydro plant earns goes toward defraying that cost. (hh)

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12 responses to “Albany hydro: Why it’s currently shut down”

  1. Bill Kapaun says:

    Which begs the question. HOW MUCH revenue is generated after paying wages, maintenance and PERS?

    Next question- When will it have paid for itself?

  2. Bill Kapaun says:

    Why did they schedule canal maintenance while the water is flowing and generating “all that revenue”? Why not wait a couple/few months when the water isn’t flowing.

    Stupid is as stupid does!

  3. centrist says:

    Look again
    There are two condition-based projects that require low flow. It’s prudent to take care of the issues now to forestall a bigger issue.
    The third project seems to be an opportunity-based project that can be done now.
    Planning? Yup
    Knowledge? Yup

    • Bill Kapaun says:

      Apparently you don’t realize it’d be shut down in the very near future because of low flow like it is EVERY SUMMER?

      • centrist says:

        Fully aware of that requirement, tied to river flow.
        From the crumbs that HH presented, it sounds like canal conditions made it prudent to reduce flow. Perhaps you could find out.

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