The city of Redwood Falls has been generating electricity from the Redwood River for the past 111 years.
For much of that, the exact same equipment was used to do it, too.
The turbine was originally installed by the Redwood Falls Light and Power Company, formed in 1897 by August Burmeister as part of the Redwood Falls Roller Mill.
Originally, the company only provided electricity to the streetlights and downtown businesses. When the original Redwood Lake dam was built in 1902, the power company was able to add hydroelectric power to the mix.
Last year, the 1929-model hydroelectric generator finally gave up the ghost, a victim of the Public Utilities department not being able to find parts for it any more.
“In 2001 we spent about $150,000 to get it back up in operation. We could just keep fixing it up every 10 years or so, but I’d hate to think of what it would cost today,” said Chuck Heins, head of the Redwood Falls Public Utilities.
“Parts for it had to be hand-made,” said Heins. “There weren’t any modern safety devices on it, there always needed to be someone here with it when it’s running.
The old generator was capable of creating up to 350 kw of electricity, enough to power up to 90 local homes.
After considering all its alternatives, the city finally decided to replace it with a new generator on the side of the Redwood River, just down river from the dam.
On Oct. 9, the new generator went online, capable of creating up to 500 kw of energy, depending on how the river is doing.
Heins said the approximately $3 million project can create enough electricity to potentially power up to 250 homes in the area.
A whole new building had to be created for the new hydroelectric generator on the same spot. It takes water fro the river near the dam, runs it through the generator, then puts the water back into the Redwood River.