Small-Scale Hydropower: An Inside Look at Making Renewable Energy

Sarah Hill-Nelson, co-owner of the Bowersock Mills and Power Co. in Lawrence, Kan., talks about low-impact hydropower and the great potential of this type of renewable energy.

Small hydropower
The Bowersock Mills and Power Co. is a small hydropower plant in Lawrence, Kan., that is certified as a low impact hydroelectric facility. This is a “run of river” plant, meaning that it doesn’t significantly alter the river’s flow.
Sarah Hill-Nelson
Sarah Hill-Nelson is co-owner of the Bowersock Mills and Power Co., along with her father, Stephen Hill. Her great, great grandfather completed the current dam in 1878.
Hydropower generator
Sarah Hill-Nelson shows off one of the plant’s seven generators. The plant is rated at 2.35 megawatts (MW). On a good day, it produces enough electricity to power about 1,800 homes.
Hydropower plant generator
This governor works as a safety mechanism to keep the turbine from turning too quickly. It works purely on mechanical energy, no electricity required.
Hydropower turbine
Bowersock Power is currently working on a proposed expansion of its facility. This turbine will be used in that project if it’s approved. Steven Chu, the Secretary of Energy, has estimated that similar hydropower projects at existing dams across the United States could produce 70 gigawatts (GW) of renewable energy. That’s the equivalent of about 70 nuclear power plants or 100 coal-fired plants.

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