Tucked away on the northeast side of Orem at the mouth of Provo Canyon is the Olmsted Hydroelectric Power Plant.
It recently went through a two-year replacement and now has received top honors for the project.
Engineering News Record has named the Olmsted Hydroelectric Power Plant Replacement the Intermountain Project of the Year as part of its annual awards program dedicated to honoring the best construction projects in the United States, according to a press statement released Wednesday.
The Olmsted project was also recognized as the Best Energy/Industrial Project in the Intermountain Region and received the Excellence in Safety Award.
“The project is working wonderfully,” said Gene Shawcroft, general manager and CEO of the Central Utah Water Conservancy District. “We’re thrilled with the project. It was a great project but not an easy one. Everybody put their heart and soul into it.”
The two-year project included construction of a new powerhouse and a new transmission line that required installing 850 feet of 84-inch steel pipeline into a 12-foot rock tunnel, according to the release.
Much of this work was done during the winter on steep slopes, and required crews to use two excavators to move and install 20-foot sections of penstock, each weighing 22,000 pounds. In total, the project logged more than 250,000 work hours without a reportable accident — a remarkable achievement considering the high-risk construction site, according to the press release.
Olmsted is part of a successful partnership with the U.S. Bureau of Reclamation, U.S. Department of the Interior, and Central Utah Water Conservancy District.
The $42 million facility was designed by Jacobs Engineering Group, with Ames Construction as the general contractor. The power plant now provides electricity to more than 3,000 homes.
“We were able to install a very efficient, high-quality, modern plant and deliver a project that continues the legacy of historic generation of power,” said K.C. Shaw, chief engineer at Central Utah Water, which operates the federal facility said in the release.
Olmsted is one of the oldest hydropower generation plants in the western United States. In 1904, Olmsted became the first high-voltage, long-distance, alternating-current power transmission system in the world.
After an evaluation showed the facility was nearing the end of its life, the plant shut down in 2015. Plans for a new facility began in order to maintain water rights and store water in Jordanelle Reservoir.
On Sept. 20, 2018, the Olmsted plant reopened with fanfare and lots of dignitaries praising the project and how it will help the area.
“It’s an amazing celebration,” said Timothy R. Petty, assistant secretary for water and science at the U.S. Department of Interior, at the grand reopening of the plant. “This is the next level of engineering. Hydropower is unique for communities. It represents a unique partnership between the federal government, the state and local (organizations) to really accomplish (what is needed) for the communities.”
As part of the new buildout project on the Olmsted campus, there is a new museum, housed in the old facility, showing photos of the old campus and items used in everyday life from the blacksmiths tools to the old non-electric clothing irons used by students and residents in the small enclave.