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New Olmsted Power Plant, Museum Opening At Provo River

PROVO, Utah – The Olmsted Power plant at the mouth of Provo Canyon is one of the oldest hydroelectric power plants in the western United States. The historic power plant was shut down three years ago after generating power for 111 years.

A newly-constructed plant started generating power in July, which officials said was about twice as efficient, while the old plant will be turned into a museum.

The old Olmsted Power Plant, which started generating power in 1904, was a marvel of its time and set the stage for the new Olmsted Power Plant, which is generating electricity from water for people on the Wasatch Front, right now.

“There was so much demand for the power in the day that they needed to get power from any supply they could,” said Daryl Devey, CUP manager for the Central Utah Water Conservancy District.

The Olmsted Plant replaced Nunn’s Power Plant further up the river, because it could generate more power that was used for work and lighting in the mines, and later for cities.

Water Supply Generates Hydroelectric Power

“We deliver water, and power is a byproduct of that water delivery,” said Devey.

An educational campus was even built next to the old plant at the mouth of the canyon that housed the Telluride Institute.

“It was used as a college to train engineers, plant operators, pipeline technicians, and other people,” said Devey.

That was in a time when people knew very little about alternating power, he said.

“They were training engineers as they went. It was one of only two schools in the United States that had an electrical engineering college,” said Devey.

Engineers learned in the classroom, and applyied that knowledge in the plant.

The institute was operational until 1912. Officials said the old plant will be turned into a museum of hydroelectric power.

Rehabilitation of the old plant would have cost more than building the new plant, for a total of $42 million.

Owned by the federal government and operated by Central Utah Water Conservancy District, the plant distributes the water to the Wasatch Front after it generates power.

New Plant Powers 3,000 Homes at Double Efficiency

The new Olmsted Power Plant will generate 11 1/2 MW, enough energy to supply power for 3,000 homes over a year.

“The old power plant generated about the same amount of power using four turbines. This will generate the same amount of power using two turbines. So twice as efficient,” said K.C. Shaw, chief engineer for the Central Utah Water Conservancy District.

Engineers designed the new plant to emit few to no pollutants, because hydropower is a renewable power source. That saves seven or eight large truckloads of coal each day, Dewey said.

“(It’s) huge for the environment to be able to have hydropower,” he said.

When we flip a light switch today, many of us are using power generated from the new Olmsted Plant. The museum at the old plant will be opened in the next couple of years.

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