An Energy Experiment at Hastings
In 1882, St. Anthony Falls, a location within the park, provided power to the first commercial hydroelectric generating facility in the country. In 2009, another location within the park will provide power for a new type of hydroelectric generation using hydrokinetics.
In the first of its kind installation in the U.S., City of Hastings, working with Hydro Green Energy, has been licensed to place two hydroturbines in the Mississippi River. The turbines will be suspended from an anchored barge just downstream from the existing hydropower plant at Lock and Dam #2 (image). Water flowing through the turbines will generate up to 70-kilowatts of power and will supplement Hastings’ existing hydropower plant, which generates 4.4-megawatts of power. (Learn more about how it works.)
The National Park Service is concerned about the potential environmental effects of this new technology. Fish congregate just below dams on the river, and this location could significantly impact walleye and sauger populations. Impacts to mussels, diving birds and recreation are unknown. Studies of potential environmental effects are being designed without consultation with the resource agencies that have proper expertise.The federal agency charged with licensing hydropower installations is the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission (FERC). On December 13, 2008, FERC issued an amendment to the existing hydropower license held by the City of Hastings. This amendment allows the hydrokinetic turbines to be installed and specifies certain studies and procedures that must be carried out for continued operation. FERC has issued many pilot projects for hydroturbines in American rivers but pilot projects simply give the licensee the right to study the feasibility of hydrokinetic electricity generation at a particular site. What is new in Hastings is that FERC has licensed the city to do more than just study. The hydroturbines will be in the water and generating electricity. The amendment to the license allows the city to generate additional electricity under its current license. If the three year study mandated by FERC finds that the hydroturbines have minimal environmental impact, the license is in effect for the next 25 years.
Did You Know?
At Lake Itasca, the elevation of the Mississippi River is 1,475 feet above sea level. It drops to sea level at the Gulf of Mexico. More than half of that drop occurs within the state of Minnesota.