Slow River Reduces Output at WV's Hydro Plant at Willow Island
The State Journal
21 October 2016
By Jim Ross
The Ohio River was moving pretty slow on Tuesday, Oct. 18.
It was so slow, it was almost not enough to run the hydroelectric
plant being dedicated that day.
Because of the recent spell of dry weather, the dam gates at the
Willow Island Locks and Dam were closed and all river water was
running through one turbine of the plant.
During a tour following the dedication ceremony, Scott Barta,
director of hydropower operations for American Municipal Power,
pointed to a graph in a computer screen. A red dot in the lower
left corner showed the 4,000 cubic feet of water moving through
the turbine each second was the bare minimum to keep the plant
operating. If the flow slowed, the plant would shut down, as it
has done four days this summer, he said.
In large hydroelectric power plants, there is a large drop of
water and turbines are placed so water runs through them
vertically. In small run-of-river plants such as the one at Willow
Island, the turbines are horizontal. They produce the most power
when the difference in elevation of water above the dam and below
the dam, known as head, is greatest and when there is a sufficient
quantify of water moving through the river.
Barta said 15,000 cubic feet per second is the ideal flow for
Willow Island. Because the head is important, when flow is too
high and there is no difference between upper and lower
elevations, the plant shuts down, he said.
In times such as this, the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers, which
operates the locks and dam at Willow Island, decides how much
water the power plant will have available, Barta said.
“They’re very good at giving us water. There’s just not very much
water now,” he said.
There was only enough to run one of the plant’s two turbines,
As Barta spoke, a readout showed the plant was producing about 6
megawatts of power of its total capacity at ideal flow of 44
The low flow was also evident at AMP’s power plant at the
Belleville Locks and Dam, about 42 miles downstream from Willow
Island, where all dam gates were closed and water was run through
the power plant. A similar situation existed another 34 miles
downstream at the Racine Locks and Dam and the hydroelectric plant
owned and operated by American Electric Power.