Federal, state and local officials attended the official groundbreaking ceremony on Thursday, where Pete Simonich, vice president and chief operating officer of PPL Montana, said the project will create hundreds of local construction jobs over the next 30 months, boost the local economy and supply the region with more renewable energy.

As part of the project, PPL Montana will construct a new Rainbow powerhouse. Smaller units, installed between 1909 and 1930 with a combined capacity of 37MW, will be replaced with a single 62MW unit that can generate enough electricity to power about 45,000 homes.

The project, part of PPL Montana’s Project 2188 license with the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission, will also benefit fisheries habitat in the Missouri River. The turbine will have wider flow passages and fewer rotating surfaces, making it easier for fish to pass through unharmed.

Work is due to be completed in 2012.