Perspectives: Visiting Exceptional Facilities

Elizabeth Ingram

One of the “perks” of my job is the opportunity to tour hydroelectric power facilities. I estimate that over the past 14 years I’ve gotten to visit more than 35.

However, those chances don’t come around nearly as often as I would like. So, as you can imagine, I was inordinately saddened when my plans to visit the 1,870-MW Gibe III hydropower facility on the Omo River in Ethiopia fell through this last May. Gibe III began generating electricity in October 2015 and features a 797-ft-high roller-compacted-concrete dam that provides water to a 10-unit powerhouse. Particularly impressive about this accomplishment is that a government official said Gibe III increased Ethiopia’s power generating capacity by 234%.

Luckily, I recently had the good fortune to visit the White Rock hydro plant on the American River in California in the U.S. At 224 MW, White Rock is the largest of the eight powerhouses in the Sacramento Municipal Utility District’s Upper American River Project, or UARP. This project consists of 11 reservoirs and eight powerhouses that provide a total generating capacity of 688 MW.

It is both fascinating and challenging that each and every hydro plant, worldwide, is “special in its own way.”

Some things that make White Rock special, that were highlighted during this tour, include:

  • Both turbine-generating units at this facility were recently upgraded, boosting total capacity at the site by 24 MW.

  • A 5-mile-long, unlined tunnel delivers water to the project from the upstream Slab Creek Reservoir.

  • The powerhouse is unmanned and is operated and monitored from SMUD’s control center in Sacramento.


If you enjoy visiting hydroelectric plants as much as I do, our HydroVision International event next June in Charlotte, N.C., U.S., will provide you with a couple of opportunities to do just that:

  • Our full-day in-the-field technical tour on Monday, June 25, takes attendees to Duke Energy’s 84-MW Tillery hydro facility and Cube Hydro’s 108-MW Narrows plant, both on the Yadkin-Pee Dee River.

  • A second half-day tour offers the opportunity to visit Duke Energy’s 350-MW Cowans Ford station on the Catawba River.

For more information or to register for one of these tours, visit, hover over Event Info across the top and click on Co-Located Events.

Managing Editor

350-MW Cowans Ford hydro

350-MW Cowans Ford hydro

108-MW Narrows hydro

108-MW Narrows hydro


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