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The loud hum of four turbines filled the Rock Island Hydroelectric Plant on Monday as city leaders gathered for a rededication of the 98-year-old facility.

Rock Island purchased the power plant at 5200 11th St. in 2008 and began using two turbines to generate power for city facilities, such as city hall. Within the past two months two more generators went online, giving the plant four functional units and a capacity of 1,200 kilowatts.

The additions were part of a $2.2 million investment by the city, which included the rehabilitation of the powerhouse and the two existing turbines, which have been in place since 1912, as well as adding two more 300-kilowatt generators, Robert Hawes, Rock Island public works director, said.

Hawes said the units had been shut down recently because of flooding on the Rock River.

The facility provides one-third of the electricity used by the city and powers the city’s Mill Street Sewage Treatment Plant, Southwest Sewage Treatment Plant, raw water pumping station, water treatment plant and city hall. It also powers street lights and traffic signal lights.

Mayor Dennis Pauley said the plant on the north channel of the Rock River has helped the city cut energy costs. “We are leading the way in creating a green city, and this plant is a shining example of how to use a renewable energy source to save money and the environment,” he said.

Former Rock Island Mayor Mark Schwiebert, who attended the dedication, said the city purchased the former White Hydropower Co. in an effort to help reduce the nation’s carbon dioxide emissions and help protect the environment.

“In Rock Island, we were determined to change that,” he said of high emission ratings.

The plant opened in 1912 as the Sears Powerhouse.

It is classified as a renewable energy resource by the state and produces about 5,500 Renewable Energy Certificates (RECs or Green Tags) per year. Such credits equate to a carbon dioxide emissions savings of 2,170 pounds compared to electricity generated by the burning of coal, according to the city.

Rock Island is selling the RECs for $15 per certificate to help support the cost of operating the plant. Schwiebert presented a $120 personal check to the city Monday for his RECs.

It’s possible the city could expand the plant’s energy production beyond 1,200 kilowatts in the future but that has not been discussed yet, Hawes said.

 

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