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The operational safety and structural integrity of the Hastings Hydrokinetic Power Station will soon be put under the microscope following the City Council’s approval of a comprehensive study at their meeting on March 6.

L&S Electrical and Barr Engineering were chosen to conduct the study in tandem, and their proposal to develop a preventative maintenance program is estimated to cost $46,790. According to Hastings Public Works Director Ryan Stempski, the program will be developed with data obtained from running failure scenarios.

Since the hydro facility became fully operational in 1987, a study of this nature has never been conducted, prompting the City to earmark $100,000 for it in the 2023 Budget. The facility cost $10 million to build and is made up of two turbines and generation units, with each set generating 2.2 megawatts of power. 

Due to its unique barge-mounted construction, the hydro facility presents logistical challenges for projects of any size. Any major improvements to it requires the mobilization of a barge and divers.

“It’s a different scale, which increases the availability, the time and the cost for us to do even the smallest of projects. We also have to go through a dewatering to get on these components inside the plant,” Stempski said.

According to Stempski, dewatering the plant is something the City does every five years and it costs about a half-a-million dollars to complete. He said that in order for this study to be worthwhile, the City needs to know the ins and outs of the hydro facility. 

“The City needs to understand all of the inputs: what are the costs, what is the revenue generation, we want to really understand how this hydro plant works and how it makes money for the City,” Stempski said. 

The City’s approach to familiarizing themselves with the dam has been to take a deep dive into its associated labor costs, Capital Improvement Program, insurance costs and active contracts and commitments tied to it. 

The City has an agreement with the Army Corps of Engineers through which they lease the section of the lock and dam where the facility lies. The City also has a contract with Xcel, their primary customer for power generated at the hydro plant. 

Stempski said that the desired outcomes from the study’s findings will be to create a preventative maintenance program, determine best practices and conduct a full cost-benefit analysis. 

“We want to have this comprehensive data in our final report so we can make informed recommendations to the council in the future,” Stempski said.

City staff is hoping to provide costs to the contractors by the end of March and have the study completed in May. Next, the findings would be presented to the council’s utilities committee, and recommendations to the City Council would ideally be incorporated into the 2024 budget.

“We may not be ready that quick but that's the goal,” Stempski said. 

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