Notre Dame dedicates new hydro facility in South Bend

Published: Sep. 12, 2022 at 7:02 PM EDT
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SOUTH BEND, Ind. (WNDU) - The University of Notre Dame just added water to its sustainable energy portfolio.

The current of the St. Joseph River is once again being used to produce electrical current.

Notre Dame spent nearly three years and $30 million on a hydro facility near the dam at Century Center, and frankly, it has very little to show for it, in that’s there’s not much to see.

“Pretty much everything is buried over there,” explained Notre Dame Assistant Vice President for Utilities and Maintenance Paul Kempf. “You know, the water comes in at the southern end of the park, through three tunnels that lead to five channels that, they go deeper underground, probably about 40, 50 feet below the surface of the park, where the turbines are located—ten of them.”

The plant will produce 2.5 megawatts of electricity per year which is about seven percent of the university’s total power needs. The project is part of the university’s continuing efforts to reduce its carbon footprint.

“So, you might be familiar with the solar project we participated in with I and M. They built a 20-megawatt array, we took eight megawatts of its output. These two projects actually produce about the same amount of energy on a daily basis. Obviously, the hydro project runs night and day, day and night all year long. The solar project, you know, works great when the sun is out or during the day. It’s not going to do anything at night so this makes up for, this is sort of the tortoise and the hare, right? This is the slow, but constantly running project,” Kempf said.

With work on the plant now complete, officials can turn their attention to rebuilding Seitz Park.

“When the park is done approximately a year from now, you’ll see first class amenities, much like you’ve seen over at Howard Park. Some familiar features will be, put back some of the firefighter’s memorial, the river lights plaza, the fish ladder once again,” said South Bend Venues Parks and Arts Director Aaron Perri.

The university is contributing $1 million to the park improvement project.