Wisconsin Public Service (WPS) will begin work on upgrading its Grandfather Falls hydroelectric dam this week after receiving the necessary approvals from the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission (FERC) and the Public Service Commission of Wisconsin (PSCW).
Construction will begin this week and will result in the replacement of the dam’s two wood stave penstocks. The project is expected to be completed by the beginning of November. Penstocks are large-diameter pipes that transport water from the dam’s reservoir into the facility. The current penstocks have been in operation for 43 years, but are no longer operating as efficiently as intended, resulting in decreased power output from the facility.
The new steel penstocks have a lifespan of 80 years and will help reduce fuel costs at the dam while increasing renewable energy provided to the energy grid.
“We are pleased with the decisions by the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission and the Public Service Commission to allow the penstock replacement at Grandfather Falls to take place,” said Paul Spicer, vice president – gas and renewable energy, WEC Energy Group. “Aside from investing in one of our existing renewable generation facilities, the upgrades will lead to fewer operational and maintenance costs, savings that will be shared with all WPS customers.”
Public recreational areas will be impacted as construction takes place, resulting in limited or restricted access to parking lots, a canoe portage and fishing areas above and below the dam. The portage and almost a half-mile of the Ice Age National Scenic Trail will be temporarily relocated during the replacement of the penstocks. The impacted recreation areas will be clearly marked during construction.
WPS will communicate with local fishing groups, lake associations and nonprofits throughout the penstock replacement project. WPS also will provide monthly progress updates to FERC as well as a final construction report once the project is complete.
River flows will be diverted through the bypass reach into the original channel of the Wisconsin River. Water levels and flows above the dam and below the powerhouse will not be affected by the project. The powerhouse will be inoperable while the penstocks are being replaced.