The technology group Wärtsilä and American Hydro – a Wärtsilä Company since 2016 − are together increasing the efficiency, flexibility and hydropower production capacity of the John W. Keys III pump generating plant. The work covers upgrade of two pump units at the plant, located at the Grand Coulee Dam on the Columbia River in Washington.
The Grand Coulee Dam is the largest hydropower project in the United States, generating more than 21 billion kilowatt-hours of electricity each year – equivalent of well over 2.3 million US homes. The modernisation plan will help to achieve efficient plant operations, provide reliable irrigation delivery and allow for adequate flexibility to continue power reserve balancing and load shaping, eliminating the potential loss of public revenue and adverse effects on the regional economy from interrupted irrigation delivery and public power generation.
The project was awarded to American Hydro in August 2016 by the U.S. Department of Interior’s Bureau of Reclamation. During 2017−2019, the project involves the replacement of the pump impellers on Units 5 & 6 in the John W. Keys III plant. In addition, Wärtsilä will provide mechanical shaft seals for the pumps.
The plant has an output of 314 MW and is part of the 6,809 MW Grand Coulee Dam power complex, which also provides flood control and irrigation for the area.
Essential part of infrastructure modernisation
The Bureau of Reclamation is the largest wholesale water supplier and the second largest producer of hydroelectric power in the United States, with operations and facilities in 17 states.
“This effort is pivotal to the infrastructure modernisation at the Keys Plant. The pump units will provide greater efficiency, flexibility and capacity in hydropower production and water delivery,” says Reclamation Commissioner Estevan López.
“Combining Wärtsilä’s advanced seals and bearings technology with American Hydro’s leading knowledge of servicing hydroelectric and water distribution industries, we can now better support our customers in hydro upgrades and plant rehabilitation,” says Lee Martindale, Business Development Director at Wärtsilä Seals & Bearings.
John W. Keys III Pump-Generating Plant contains 12 pumps that lift water from the Columbia River up the hillside to a canal that flows in to Banks Lake, which provides irrigation water to over 670,000 acres in the Columbia Basin Project. Six of the pumps can be reversed to generate hydroelectricity when demand exists. The facility was completed in 1973. American Hydro provided replacement pump impellers for Units 1–4 at the Keys facility between 1988 and 2005.