DOE objectives for the project specified that ultimately, the full four-unit modernization would result in a 28% increase in generating capacity. The Dam has actually demonstrated a 50% increase – from 88MW to 132MW,” Gross added.

In addition to the capacity improvements, the modernization efforts have eliminated the use of circuit breaker oil and minimized the need for transformer oil, resulting in a net decrease in total oil volume in high voltage equipment of almost 40,000 gallons. And by using air-cooled transformers, cooling water requirements have dropped by 122,000 gallons per day.

The modernization project received a boost when the DOE awarded Alcoa a $12.95M grant as part of the 2009 American Recovery and Reinvestment Act. DOE’s Office of Energy Efficiency and Renewable Energy issued the grant. The overall project includes upgrades to four of the dam’s five power generation units, along with process and utility systems, such as transformers, switchgear, power and control wiring, piping and fire protection equipment. Another two units will be upgraded during phase two of the project and are estimated to be completed by spring of 2013.

In June this year, Alcoa announced that it had reached an agreement to sell the Tapoco Project to Brookfield Renewable Energy Partners. The transaction is expected to close by the end of the year.