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3 minutes reading time (503 words)

Hydropower Big and Small: My Recent Visit to a 5 MW Plant

Pikes Peak in Colorado, USA is often called "America's Mountain" and is the most visited mountain in North America and second most visited in the world. Barr Trail is the 13 mile (20 km) hiking trail that leads from Manitou Springs to the top of Pikes Peak. And right next to the Barr Trail trailhead is the famous 100+ year-old Manitou Hydro Plant.

Famous? Why is this tiny 5.5 MW hydroelectric power plant famous?

And how would a fluid systems engineer like myself compare it to other famous dams like the 14,000 MW Itaipu Dam and the 2,000 MW Hoover Dam?

I regularly hike on Barr Trail and each time I do, I walk past the Manitou Hydro Plant building. I have often wondered what exactly is in that fenced off building. Last month I got to see firsthand when I went on a private tour of the plant. The occasion was AFT's semi-annual Channel Partner Summit. As part of our week of meetings we took a break to go on a tour of the plant.

Outside of Manitou Hydroelectric Plant     Sign Outside of Manitou Hydroelectric Plant

The Manitou Hydro Plant was opened in 1905 and was recently inducted in the Hydro Hall of Fame (that is what makes it famous, I guess!). Originally it supplied all the power for the cities of Manitou Springs and Colorado Springs. It is also famous for being one of the highest (if not the highest) head hydroelectric plants in the USA at 2,656 ft (810 m) at a pressure of 1150 psi (79 bar). 

It has three Pelton wheel turbines. A Pelton turbine directs free jets of high pressure water onto buckets mounted on a high speed shaft. Our tour guide told us the the velocity of the water jet onto the Pelton turbine was about 400 ft/s (120 m/s).

One of the Manitou Hydro Plant's Pelton Turbines

One of the Manitou Hydro Plant's Pelton Turbines

A Manitou Hydro Plant Pelton Turbine Shaft Connected to a Generator

A Manitou Hydro Plant Pelton Turbine Shaft Connected to a Generator

Those of you who read my blog may remember my trip three months ago to the 14,000 MW Itaipu Dam on the Brazil/ Paraguay border. And just a year ago I wrote about my visit to the 2,000 MW Hoover Dam in Nevada / Arizona USA. I can confidently say that the Manitou Hydro Plant is much smaller than those two hydroelectric plants!

The Manitou Hydro Plant building is not much wider than one of Itaipu's 33 ft (10 m) penstocks (it has 20 such penstocks). It is also not much wider than one of Hoover's 30 ft (9 m) penstocks (it has four such penstocks - which branch out into 17 smaller penstocks to each turbine).

The Manitou Hydro Plant is remotely operated by Colorado Springs Utilities. Our tour guide says at night time it is watched over at the homes of their staff. By laptop! That is definitely not the case with Itaipu or Hoover!

Our Group With International Channel Partners at the Manitou Hydro Plant

Our Group With International Channel Partners at the Manitou Hydro Plant

 

An Overhead Photo of the Hoover Dam - I Took This Last Week on a Flight to California

An Overhead Photo of the Hoover Dam - I Took This Last Week on a Flight to California

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Thursday, 21 October 2021

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