Spillway modernization begins at Cedar Falls Hydro, US

21 March 2022

Xcel Energy has begun a multi-year project designed to strengthen and modernize the infrastructure at its Cedar Falls Hydro plant in Menomonie, Wisconsin.

Crews have begun to mobilize for the first phase of the $50 million project that was approved by the Public Service Commission of Wisconsin last year. The overall project consists of replacing the existing overflow spillway and small gates with six large gates and also a downstream stilling basin which helps reduce the risk of eroding the riverbed at the dam. The spillway will be constructed in phases using upstream and downstream cofferdams.  

“During construction planning, we worked with the St. Anthony Falls Hydraulics Laboratory at the University of Minnesota who constructed a 1/36 scale model to test the performance of the suggested improvements,” said Rob Olson, manager, Hydro Operations. “The results of this physical model study helped us create a plan that minimizes costs of the improvements while modernizing a spillway that meets modern day standards. This will help extend the life of the facility way into the future.” 

Construction is expected to take place over the next three years and the 1800 acre Tainter Lake, a popular recreational location, will remain at its normal water level throughout the entire project.

The Cedar Falls Hydro is one of 19 hydroelectric facilities Xcel Energy operates in Wisconsin with a total generating capacity of about 265MW of renewable and carbon-free electricity. The spillway modernization project is part of the company’s investment in a cleaner electric system, as it continues its drive toward 100% carbon-free electricity by 2050.


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