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PGE, Confederated Tribes tout Round Butte dam improvements

by: Contributed - The Round Butte Dam’s modified 340-ton generator is shown here as it's lowered into the hydroelectric facility.

News Editor
   March 26, 2003 — The Round Butte Dam that corrals water to form Lake Billy Chinook recently underwent technology upgrades that enable it to generate 60 more megawatts of electricity without using additional water. The dam, part of the Pelton-Round Butte Hydroelectric Project owned by Portland General Electric and the Confederated Tribes of Warm Springs, now has an increased efficiency of 8 percent. PGE recently finished the three-part project. It included replacing two of the Round Butte dam’s original three turbines, installing a new 130-ton transformer and modifying the 340-ton generator-rotor to handle the increased turbine output. “Back in 1964, they didn’t have the technology we have today,” said Don Kraus, manager of the Pelton-Round Butte Hydroelectric Project. The $11 million upgrades can now generate enough electricity to meet the needs of 5,600 additional homes without using more water. PGE officials are touting several new upgrades across their network of power-generating facilities as passing savings of roughly $14 million to their customers. Power company officials say by the end of 2003 their plants will be able to generate 369 more megawatts of electricity without consuming more fuel or water. This comes at a time when several counties — Jefferson County included — and the city of Portland are eying the possibility of taking over PGE, or parts of it, and operating it as a People’s Utility District without a profit margin. The recent improvements to the Round Butte Dam are the most significant to a PGE-owned hydroelectric facility. “The financial benefit of this is $2.4 million per year,” said Mark Fryburg, a PGE spokesman. “That’s what that would have cost if we went out and bought it on the open market.” Officials with PGE and the Confederated Tribes also note the increased efficiency doesn’t affect fish passage or the environment. “We utilized new technology to generate additional energy without added impact to the natural resource,” said Jim Manion, general manager of Warm Springs Power Enterprises. “But it doesn’t stop there. We’ll continue to look for ways to deliver more value to our customers in the future.” The added electricity output could generate more tax revenue for Jefferson County. The dams — valued at $124 million this fiscal year — are appraised by the Oregon Department of Revenue using a model that takes into account their energy output, among other things.