Refurbishment underway at SCE's Kern River 3 plant

11 March 2014

A year-long renovation project is now underway at Southern California Edison's (SCE) Kern River 3 hydroelectric plant to ensure the 94-year old project continues to be viable.

The renovation works include repairing cracks and upgrading equipment in three major parts of the plant's water conveyance system --the sandbox, the 50ft-high Fairview Dam, where the worn and eroded concrete surface of the dam is being replaced with reinforced steel and concrete, and the intake structure, which includes replacing the intake house which houses the equipment to control operation of the water flow equipment.

Electrical controls that operate the water control gates at the sandbox are also being replaced, along with concrete replacement, where necessary, in more than 15 miles of tunnels.

Special safety rules are guiding the work in the tunnels. All tunnel workers are specially trained and a mine rescue team will be on standby. Access into the tunnels required cutting through a foot of concrete with workers using electric and diesel powered equipment to perform the work. To accomplish the work in the eight-feet-wide tunnels, special carts were constructed to carry equipment through this narrow space.

Access to work locations on the project is complicated. Because of its historical place along the Kern River, SCE had to obtain special approval from the California Historic Preservation Office for some of the work. A scaffolding structure was also built across the 135-foot face of the dam to give workers access to that work site. The company also had to obtain permits and approvals for the work from federal and state agencies.

Kern River 3 is part of SCE's Eastern Hydro Division, incorporating hydro-generating plants in the eastern Sierra Nevada mountains, the southern Sierra mountains, and the Ontario, San Bernardino and Banning areas in the San Gabriel and San Bernardino mountains. Collectively, the power plants can generate more than 160MW, enough to power about 104,000 homes. Most have been in service since the late 19th and early 20th centuries.

Photo: Kern River 3, which sits on the scenic Kern River 50 miles east of Bakersfield, is getting refurbished (Credit: SCE)

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