“Crisis mode? No. Are we concerned? Yes, says a claim manager
LAS VEGAS (KLAS) – Power generation at Hoover Dam is down about 33% and will continue to decline as the “mega-drought” affecting the Southwest continues, according to a US Bureau spokesperson. of Reclamation.
Lower Lake Mead levels are the reason, according to Doug Hendrix, assistant public affairs officer in the Bureau of Reclamation’s Lower Colorado regional office.
At full capacity, the dam’s turbines can produce 2,074 megawatts, but as the water level dropped during the drought, electricity production was affected and the efficiency of the power plant dropped by 33%. The dam currently produces enough electricity for 675,000 homes, Hendrix said. That’s down from one million homes at peak production.
“When you have less water in the reservoir, you have less waterpower — the water that falls through the penstocks. There’s less waterpower that spins the turbines,” Hendrix said. forced refers to the system of pipes that bring water to the turbines.
A recent decision to conserve more water in Lake Powell—at the expense of a higher water level at Lake Mead—was based in part on preserving power generation at Glen Canyon Dam.
Power generation at Lake Mead has not changed much since the dam was put in place in the 1930s. Water falls through 30 foot diameter pipes into four intake towers on the side of the dam lake. The higher the lake level, the greater the force of the water coming down to spin the turbines.
There are 17 turbines – nine powered by the two towers on the Arizona side and eight powered by the Nevada towers. Turbine technology and design have improved over the years. All of the original turbines were replaced between 1986 and 1993.
And recent design improvements have been put in place as five turbines have been rebuilt over the past decade, Hendrix said. Rebuilt “wide-head” turbines operate more efficiently and have a higher tolerance when hydraulic force drops.
Hendrix said the dam can continue normal power generation until Lake Mead drops to 950ft – about 100ft lower than its current level. And even then, the dam can still generate electricity, but the turbines that have not been upgraded will operate in the “raw” area.
Power generation and water supply are two different ball games. While Las Vegas residents watched nervously as Lake Mead’s level dropped, the effect on power generation was invisible to some degree. But that’s a problem.
“Crisis mode? No,” Hendrix said. “Are we concerned? Yes.”
Thus, the production of electricity will become a problem before the water supply of the valley. The third “straw” that brings water into the Las Vegas Valley will run until Lake Mead drops to 895 feet.
Lake level is expressed as an elevation above sea level. The surface of Lake Mead is currently just under 1,049 feet.
Hendrix has seen Lake Mead’s downfall since joining the Bureau of Reclamation 22 years ago.
“The drought we’re in…we’re in the 23rd year of a record drought,” he said. He answers many questions about the drought as part of his duties at the Office of Public Affairs.
The Hoover Dam has been one of the area’s top tourist attractions since its construction, and the dam’s operations have fascinated people for decades. It is the most visited dam in the world, with around 7 million tourists per year.
When the dam was built, it provided a source of electricity for the Southern California boom. The population in southern Nevada has exploded since the early 1980s.
About 50% of the electricity generated at the Hoover Dam still goes to California. Nevada gets about 22% and Arizona gets 20%. Contracts administered by the Department of Energy control the distribution of electricity, and Native American tribes are also among the dam’s customers.