LAWRENCE | The new $25 million Bowersock hydroelectric power plant near Lawrence is expected to start producing electricity this week, although low water levels on the Kansas River will prevent it from operating at full capacity, officials with the plant said.
The plant will sell its electricity to the Kansas City, Kan., Board of Public Utilities.
Bowersock Mills & Power Co.'s plant is slated to begin operating on Friday. Company officials said the project was completed about a month ahead of time, in part because this summer's drought allowed construction to continue without disruption. But now plant officials are hoping for substantial moisture this winter, said Sarah Hill-Nelson, an owner and operator of the Bowersock company.
"I felt bad when I was the only one in the state this summer cheering on a drought," Hill-Nelson said. "We got lucky that it was dry when we needed it to be dry. But now we're cheering for rain, and we'll really see how lucky we are."
Construction crews on Wednesday began removing a temporary dam that was protecting the plant from the river. That will allow the plant's four turbines to be inundated with water.
Plant operators will begin testing the turbines' ability to produce electricity on Friday. The plant, which can generate enough electricity to power about 5,400 homes, won't be able to operate at full capacity for about four weeks, The Lawrence Journal-World reported.
The river's current flow is about 700 cubic feet per second, not enough to operate even one of the four turbines at full capacity, Hill-Nelson said. A flow of 3,400 cubic feet per second would be sufficient but 5,400 cubic feet per second would be ideal, she said.
"We just need a nice, good wet winter," Hill-Nelson said.
The lack of water is not a financial risk, Hill-Nelson said, because lenders required the company to show it could withstand three straight years of drought conditions.
"We'll be all right," Hill-Nelson said. "If it doesn't rain between now and the next three years, there will be a whole lot of people in Kansas in a lot of trouble."