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Racine Hydro Celebrates 35 Years of AEP Service

by on July 26, 2017

Celebrating 35 years of service and more than 20 years of working safely are Racine Hydro employees (from left) Larry Ritchie, Evan Needs, Erin Pottmeyer and Kevin Marcinko.

(Story by Rachel Hammer)

This summer, Racine Hydroelectric facility is celebrating its 35th anniversary. It also is celebrating 35 years of exemplary safe operation.

Over that time, the 48 megawatt (MW) facility has had only 13 employees; it has only two retirees. Four employees operate the plant today.

Plant workers have never experienced a lost-time accident. Currently, they have surpassed 20 years and 6 months without an OSHA recordable.

In general, things have been pretty quiet at Racine Hydro. There was a time in the early ‘90s when employees pulled a boater who had capsized his craft from the river. But in general, things at Racine have been what you’d expect from any run-of-the-rive facility: uneventful.


The Racine Dam is one of 20 flood control or navigation dams along the 1,310-mile Ohio River. In February 1966, Ohio Power (now AEP Ohio) applied to the Federal Power Commission (FPC) for permission to study the feasibility of building powerhouses at two of the dams. At the end of that year, FPC granted a permit for the Racine Dam, a navigation dam. Eventually, Ohio Power decided not to pursue the other site. After two years of study, the project was determined feasible.

Ohio Power applied for a license to build and operate a 40-MW powerhouse at Racine in mid-1969. The FPC granted the license 4.5 years later. Decisions around type of facility and design took the next four years. Construction began Nov. 1, 1977. Unit 2 went online in 1982 and unit 1 in 1983.

Unique design

The Racine units have a unique design. Each of the two 24-MW turbine generators was installed inside a bulb-shaped housing under water beneath the powerhouse. This improves plant design and provides ideal environmental conditions.

At the time of construction, Racine Hydro was the largest facility of this design in the world. Additionally, it was the first in the eastern U.S., the second in the U.S. and the third in North America to utilize this design.

Racine Hydro’s generation record is 276,782 MWHs set in 2006. It has generated more than two million MWHs since 1982.

Operating improvements

All hydroelectric facilities are challenged by debris floating into their intake systems. Racine is no exception. This facility was especially challenged when its debris removal system failed soon after startup.

Ingenious employees designed a clam bucket and crane device that cleared debris with some level of success for 20 years. But keeping it operational required extensive employee involvement and resulted in significant down time.

Employees used the Employee Involvement Process to identify an Austrian-made trashrake system as the best solution. The Trashrake Cleaning Machine went into service in 2001. It removes trash from the intake screen using a cleaning rake that descends 66 feet below the water’s surface. The machine itself rides on a set of rails located across the top of the powerhouse. It operates automatically to dump the debris into an internal container and then into a larger external dumpster.

The trashrake exceeded the projected megawatthour production increase and labor hour reduction used to justify the investment.

From → News From AEP

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