AMPING UP ALONG THE OHIO RIVER

See How MWH Did It

The second busiest river in America is helping to deliver a renewable power supply second to none for residents in Ohio, Kentucky, Michigan, Virginia and West Virginia thanks to a collaboration between American Municipal Power (AMP) and MWH. To diversify its energy portfolio AMP, made up of 132 public utility members, selected MWH to design and provide engineering services during construction of four hydropower facilities adjacent to the existing Cannelton, Meldahl*, Smithland and Willow Island dams on the Ohio River. Scheduled for completion in 2016, these powerhouses will use the river’s natural energy to provide more than 300 MW of power—the largest deployment of clean, renewable, run-of-the-river hydroelectric generation in the U.S. in decades. The construction gives participating AMP-member communities access to a new energy source at predictable costs that are expected to provide substantial benefits to these utilities following implementation of the 2015 U.S. Clean Power Plan. It enables AMP to keep pace with rapid growth by integrating a mode of energy production that will provide power for decades to come.


*In development with the City of Hamilton, OH

Photo courtesy of MWH employee Mark Brocker, Winston Salem, North Carolina.

Responding to growing demand for clean energy, recognizing the benefits of hydropower as a sustainable natural resource, and having successfully collaborated on the Belleville Hydropower Project in the 1990s, AMP and MWH joined forces once again in 2007. The goal was to find a cost-effective way to add generating capacity at four of the Ohio River’s 20 workhorse dams. MWH delivered the solution in the form of the design for four concrete powerhouses containing a total of eleven 25.3-foot diameter bulb turbine generators that can power more than 150,000 homes annually, while reducing carbon dioxide emissions by more than 1.7 million metric tons each year. Eliminating one metric ton of CO2 is equivalent to more than 2,380 miles driven by an average passenger vehicle.

Our project management team employed both innovative and standardized design features to solve challenges that had hindered earlier development of the project sites. Each of the powerhouses, cofferdams and adjoining structures were constructed nearly simultaneously while maximizing efforts among more than 50 contractors and suppliers in order to minimize risk and cost. The flood-proof, monolithic reinforced concrete powerhouses’ pioneering structural and geotechnical designs reduced the need for costly foundation elements and reduced each project’s footprint. Designed to have minimal impact on river ecology and hydrology, the structures maintain the river’s natural flow while supporting development of a host of facilities for recreation and fishing complete with wheelchair access. MWH provided support to AMP throughout a very difficult and challenging permitting and licensing process, helping to highlight the need for regulatory reform and improved processes for future hydropower development.

Hydropower is increasing in importance as a major clean energy solution and is a requisite part of long-term, sustainable energy infrastructure. Built to last, the Ohio River hydropower plants will help AMP and its participating member communities in five states enjoy low-cost, reliable power for generations to come thanks to a renewed river resource.