A major modernization project is progressing smoothly at Rock Island Dam.

The project is centered around upgrading the dam’s eight horizontal bulb turbines, which is a type of hydrogeneration turbine similar in size and shape to a submarine.

Chelan County Public Utility District spokesperson, Rachel Hansen, says the work is meticulous and comprehensive.

“We’re going to modernize all eight generating units at Powerhouse Two. We’re going to disassemble them one at a time and every part will be inspected, refurbished, replaced, and in some cases completely redesigned.”

The improvements will aid in lessening downtime and maintenance, as well as increasing safety.

Hansen says the project will also include the introduction of new technologies which will make the dam’s operation more environmentally sound and less expensive.

“We’re planning to test a new technology that uses air for lubrication of the turbines instead of oil. Typically, it takes about 1,500 gallons of mineral oil to lubricate the turbines. So we’re working with GE Renewables to develop one of the nation’s first air-filled and lubricated hubs.”

The project got underway in the spring with the replacement of two bridge cranes and continued with the construction of two temporary workshops over the summer.

The first turbine to feature the new air-lubrication process is scheduled to be installed by the end of 2023.

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