A new 2.5MW hydropower facility is generating electricity for the University of Notre Dame in Indiana, US, with the project officially dedicated this week.

ND Hydro is located on the St. Joseph River and started generating power for the University in May. It has operated at about 70 % capacity ever since based on spring and summer river levels, and provides about 7% of the electricity for the University’s campus.

The project was developed in close collaboration with the city of South Bend and other community partners, and is the first in North America to take advantage of new low-cost, modular turbine technology from Voith.

Work on the project began in 2019 but was slowed by the pandemic and other planning and logistical hurdles. Construction involved more than 6,700 cubic yards of poured and precast concrete, plus 1.1 million pounds of steel.

The facility relies on the existing concrete and timber crib dam between Seitz and Island parks to create the necessary headwater levels to turn a series of 10 turbines. The resulting electrical output is then transmitted north to campus via an underground transmission line.

The project dates to 2016, when Notre Dame entered into an agreement with the city to develop a hydro facility along the river using an existing exemption from the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission. Under the terms of the agreement, the city agreed to lease the underground portion of the park to the University. The term of the lease is 50 years. The University, in turn, agreed to contribute $1 million toward the restoration of Seitz Park, which was already scheduled for renovations as part of a comprehensive master plan for the entire parks system. Additionally, the University helped to restore a failing section of sea wall and create what will become a river overlook at the park. 


Image: Rev. John I. Jenkins, C.S.C. president of the University of Notre Dame gives remarks at the dedication ceremony for Notre Dame’s hydroelectric project on the St. Joseph river in downtown South Bend. (Photo by Matt Cashore/University of Notre Dame)