‘Our detailed emergency planning process ensures that we evaluate many different scenarios,’ said Matt Miller, coordinator of Emergency Action Planning. ‘Following a routine evaluation of our emergency procedures we identified several opportunities to improve notification response times for downstream residents. While a major dam failure is unlikely, today’s technology allows us to install sirens that include a distinct tone and voice message that can quickly and safely warn residents downstream of our hydroelectric facilities.’

The solar-powered warning sirens will be installed in two locations downstream of Xcel Energy’s Menomonie hydroelectric project on the lower Red Cedar River. The sirens can be activated from the hydroelectric plants or remotely from the company’s 24-hour control centre. The sirens will be spaced to maximise the audible area and will be tested on the first Monday of each month beginning early in 2013.

In October, Xcel Energy installed warning sirens downstream of the Trego hydroelectric project the on Namekagon River in Washburn County. While earlier in December 2011 nine sirens were installed at locations between Cornell and Eau Claire to provide a warning system for those downstream of the lower Chippewa River hydro facilities.

Xcel Energy operates 19 hydroelectric plants in Wisconsin with a total generating capacity of 260MW.