PPL Holtwood has begun commercial operation of a new, 125MW powerhouse at its Holtwood hydroelectric facility along the Susquehanna River in Pennsylvania, US.

The powerhouse is part of a $440M expansion project to boost the plant’s generating capacity and improve fish passage over the century-old dam. The integrated improvements to the fish lifts and water flows are expected to better attract fish into the lifts and ease their migration along the Susquehanna River and its tributaries.

The new, state-of-the-art powerhouse sits adjacent to the century-old powerhouse and more than doubles the plant’s generating capacity from about 108MW to more than 230MW.

"This project, one of the largest expansions of its kind in the US, represents a major investment in clean, reliable, renewable energy," said Victor Lopiano, senior vice president of Fossil & Hydro Generation for PPL. "This project highlights the potential to upgrade existing hydroelectric facilities and expand capacity without the need to build new dams. The new facility’s two 62.5MW turbines are capable of generating more electricity than the 12 existing turbines, combined."

Lopiano said the hydroelectric expansion further strengthens the diversity of PPL’s competitive generation fleet within the mid-Atlantic. The fleet includes hydroelectric power, nuclear power, natural gas and coal-fired power plants, along with other forms of renewable energy.

With the project complete, the company expects to qualify for federal grants made available through the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act of 2009. The incentives were a key factor in the company’s decision to build the facility and are expected to exceed $100M.

The multi-year project created more than 300 construction jobs. Crews excavated more than 1.3Myd3 of rock, poured more than 71,000yd3 of concrete, dealt with the challenge of major tropical storms in recent years and took care to minimize disruption to wildlife in the area. The company, for example, worked closely with the US Fish and Wildlife Service and the Pennsylvania Game Commission to develop a bald eagle management and monitoring plan to minimize any impact to nesting eagles. For its efforts, PPL Holtwood received the National Hydropower Association’s Outstanding Stewards of America’s Water award.

Holtwood’s existing powerhouse, started in 1906 and completed in 1910, continued to operate throughout the project and will continue to generate power moving forward. At the time the original powerhouse was built, Holtwood included the longest dam in the US – nearly 2400ft long. The facility supported the continued electrification of communities throughout southeastern Pennsylvania.

PPL Holtwood is a subsidiary of PPL Generation and part of the PPL Corporation family of companies.