Illinois town to buy, expand 600-kW Sears

The city of Rock Island plans to spend $2.2 million to purchase equipment and leasehold rights for the 600-kW Sears hydroelectric project from White Hydropower Co., and expand its capacity to 1.2 MW.

The City Council approved a purchase agreement Aug. 27 that calls for spending $1.33 million to acquire the project, on Illinois’ Rock River. The city plans to spend the remaining $870,000 on the expansion, Public Works Director Robert Hawes said.

The expansion would involve rehabilitation of two existing turbines and installation of two new 300-kW generators. The existing turbines and generators would remain in service at the run-of-river facility.

Preliminary work already is in progress on the design and environmental approvals for the capacity expansion.

The project was built in 1912 and operated with a capacity of 1.8 MW under its original ownership until about 1958. At that time, the project was donated to Augustana College. Operations continued until about 1967, when the facility was donated to the state of Illinois, and most generating equipment was removed.

White Hydropower Co. leased real estate and water rights from the state in 1980. It rehabilitated part of the powerhouse and two turbines, and installed generators for those units. The project returned to service in 1985 and has been in operation since that time. The project sells power to MidAmerican Energy Co.

The city plans to fund the initiative by selling general obligation bonds and Clean Renewable Energy Bonds. (HNN 8/6/07) It would operate the project as an enterprise fund, like the city’s water and sewer utilities. About 95 percent of the revenue generated by the project would be earned by selling electricity to the five largest city-owned energy users. The rest of the revenue would come from sale of excess electricity to MidAmerican.

All expenses of operating the plant, including debt service, would be paid by revenue from power sales, the city said.

Black &Veatch Corp. of Overland Park, Kan., provided technical assistance to the city’s staff to help determine whether to recommend that Rock Island buy the plant. As part of the purchase agreement, the city hired engineer Mitch White, one of two owners of White Hydropower Co., to handle design and construction management aspect of the expansion.

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