The new turbine draws in air as the force of the water spins it, and that increases the amount of dissolved oxygen in the outflow water.

The new turbine has the added benefit of improving dissolved oxygen levels in the plant’s outflow, enhancing the fisheries habitat downstream from the Hardy Dam.

Consumers Energy replaced the original 1930 water turbine at Hardy Dam in Unit 3 and also re-wound the generator. The new turbine is capable of producing 11,400 kilowatts of electricity, up from 10,800 kilowatts previously. The upgrade enables Hardy to generate a total of 33,000 kilowatts. The original turbine is on public display at the Operators Village Park next to the roadway crossing Hardy Dam.

The new turbine installation project began in May 2008. The total cost of the project was about $5 million.

As part of its Balanced Energy Initiative announced in 2007, Consumers Energy is working to double the amount of renewable power that it supplies to customers from about 5 % today to 10 % by 2015. The 10 % level also is part of the state’s 2008 energy law. The utility is studying potential upgrades at its other hydro units as part of its overall plan to reach the ten % renewable level.

Hardy Dam is the largest energy producer in the 13-plant Consumers Energy hydro fleet. It generates an average of 95 million kilowatt-hours of electricity each year, enough to meet the annual power needs of about 12,200 residential customers. At the same time, its 4,000-acre Hardy Pond reservoir serves as a premier recreation destination for thousands of visitors and area residents each year.

Consumers Energy’s 13 hydroelectric dams have the capacity to generate 132 megawatts of renewable electricity at facilities on the Au Sable, Manistee, Muskegon, Grand and Kalamazoo rivers. The reservoirs created by the dams provide recreational opportunities. Nearly 12,000 acres of Consumers Energy land adjacent to the dams and the reservoirs are open to the public.

“Renewable hydro power remains one of Michigan’s most important homegrown energy sources to serve the needs of customers,” said Bill Schoenlein, Consumers Energy’s manager of hydro generation. “We’ve demonstrated that here at Hardy by investing in a new turbine that produces more energy from the same water flow while also benefiting fish by improving oxygen content in the water downstream of the plant.”