7/19/13

In the news: Low water levels in the Great Lakes have wide-reaching consequences

Beyond the visible problems created by low water levels in the Great Lakes, including difficulties for marina operators and boaters, one very important issue might not be as evident - electricity generation.

From Midwest Energy News:
"Michigan’s Cloverland Electric Cooperative knew it had a problem last year. Output at its hydroelectric plant at Sault Sainte Marie kept dropping dramatically before bouncing back up.

'We experienced about a 60-80 percent drop in the plant’s output,' says Phil Schmitigal, Cloverland’s Director of Generation.
The problem wasn’t inside the 36-megawatt plant, but outside in the St. Mary’s River, which connects Lake Superior with the lower Great Lakes. Cloverland’s plant draws river water in from a 2-1/4 mile long canal that runs from near Ashmun Bay on the west to downstream of the Sabin Lock on the east.
Lower levels in Lake Superior reduced the canal’s water allocation from the International Joint Commission. The lower lake levels also reduced the river’s level at Cloverland’s discharge area. Low water levels there were letting air into the system. As a result, the plant’s underwater turbines couldn’t run properly.
Read the complete article at the link above to learn more about how Great Lakes water levels affect power plants throughout the Midwest.

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