​By Lisa Meiman

At a Sept. 19 dedication ceremony in Orem, Utah, WAPA officially welcomed Olmsted Powerplant as the 57th hydropower plant in its system and the newest addition to the Colorado River Storage Project.

Olmsted is expected to produce an average of more than 27 million kilowatt-hours of clean, renewable hydropower per year, enough to power more than 2,500 homes.

“Olmsted represents our history and our future in a single instance, and I am excited that WAPA was able to play a part in the effort to make the old new again,” said Senior Vice President and CRSP Management Center Manager Steve Johnson.

Originally built in 1910, Olmsted was one of the first alternating-current hydroelectric powerplants in the world and is listed on the National Register of Historic Places. Entrepreneur Lucien Nunn and his engineer brother, Paul, were the men behind developing AC hydroelectric powerplants for commercial and industrial use. That includes financing the construction of Olmsted as well as the first-ever AC hydroelectric powerplant called Ames near Telluride, Colorado.

“I think the Nunn brothers would be proud of what has been accomplished at Olmsted,” said Administrator and CEO Mark A. Gabriel. “The proof behind their brilliance and innovation is there. If you compare the technology used in today’s generators with the ones in the old powerplant, the fundamental technology behind hydroelectric generators has not changed in more than 100 years.”

The plant was operated by PacifiCorp until 2015. The government obtained the plant and associated water rights under the provisions of an eminent domain settlement agreement signed 25 years ago. The original plant could no longer operate safely or efficiently, so public and private stakeholders came together to build a replacement generation facility.

The facility was mostly funded by the Central Utah Water Conservancy District, which will operate and maintain the plant. Ownership will remain with the Department of Interior, which also helped fund the new powerplant.

Construction was completed on a new run-of-the-river powerplant in summer 2018 to distribute water from Jordanelle Reservoir and generate hydropower for citizens in Utah. The original powerplant will be made into a museum.

“This is the next level of engineering,” said Timothy R. Petty, assistant secretary for water and science at the DOI. “Hydropower is unique for communities. It represents a unique partnership between the federal government, the state and local [organizations] to really accomplish [what is needed] for the communities.”

“It’s not an easy thing to do to take power and plug it into a grid,” added Gary Winterton, Provo Municipal Council chairman. “It’s a unique and wonderful place.”

CRSP MC embarked on a public process led by Public Utilities Specialist Lyle Johnson in 2016 to develop a power marketing plan and power contracts for the new plant that serves seven Utah counties, where more than 2.3 million people live. The project is a “take-all, pay-all” project, which means that customers receive a percentage of the generation and are responsible for paying a proportional share of annual and capital costs.

On Sept. 5, CRSP MC published its final allocations of power in the Federal Register. The Central Utah Water Conservancy District, as operator and financer of the new powerplant, will receive 30 percent of the plant’s output, as will Utah Municipal Power Agency in consideration for its efforts in securing the necessary arrangements to deliver the power.

The remaining 40 percent is split equally among four existing CRSP MC customers who had received less than 10 percent of their electrical needs from federal hydropower before Olmsted came online: Lehi, Kaysvillle, Springville and the Weber Basin Water Conservancy District.

“This is one of the greatest things I have done in my career,” said Johnson. “You just don’t see many new hydropower plants coming online.”

“We at WAPA are honored to play a part in this historic story of Olmsted Powerplant and to gain new partners and colleagues in our mission to power the energy frontier and provide affordable, reliable and renewable energy to millions of Americans in Utah and the West,” said Gabriel. 

Last modified on September 12th, 2023