A group of nearly two dozen HYDROVISION International attendees had the exclusive opportunity to tour a historic hydroelectric plant July 10.

Attendees visited the Gaston Shoals Hydro Station in South Carolina during the first half of the day. The 6.5 MW Gaston Shoals plant started producing electricity in 1908, the same year Henry Ford rolled out his first production vehicle.

“It really allows us to show the history of how hydro began in the early 1900s,” said Chris Sinclair, Vice President of Northbrook Energy, which owns the plant.

The project has three dams and provides a normal gross head of approximately 51 feet. Tour attendees walked through the powerhouse, which contains two horizontal “Seagull” turbines and one vertical Francis unit, which was added in 1923. Gaston Shoals was originally a five horizontal unit facility.

“It’s unusual to see three dams at a project, trying to manage mother nature,” said Sinclair. “The structures are built out of stone rubble masonry, so architecturally speaking, it’s really unique to see. It really has everything a hydro asset manager could discuss.”

In the last ten years, more than $8 million has been invested into Gaston Shoals. This includes a complete turbine rebuild for Unit 6 in 2016.

Duke Energy sold Gaston Shoals to Northbrook in 2019 and now buys power from the plant.

In the latter half of the day, attendees visited multiple EPRI laboratories in Charlotte to learn about the research being done there related to hydropower.

This included the Welding and Repair Technology Center, Machine Shop, Metallurgical/Microscopy Laboratories, Nondestructive Evaluation (NDE) and Transmission & Corrosion.

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