A Tour of the Abiquiu Dam Power Plant

At River Classroom yesterday, we were treated to a tour of the power plant below Abiquiu Dam! This hydroelectric plant is operated by the Los Alamos Department of Public Utilities, and our tour guide explained the basics of hydroelectricity to our students. Since we have spent so much time discussing electricity this year, almost everything was familiar.

IMG_4073
Water wheel generator? This looks familiar!

It turns out that the Abiquiu Power Plant isn’t that much different from the water wheels our students are making in class. It’s just on a much larger scale!

A row of batteries that runs the plant if power shuts down.
A row of batteries that runs the plant if power shuts down.
A control room.
A control room.
One of the generators.
One of the generators.
A row of tanks.
A row of tanks.
The students were very interested in how it all worked.
The students were very interested in how it all worked.
Looking up to where the turbine is.
Looking up to where the turbine is.
Checking out the turbine and generator that were operating.
Checking out the turbine and generator that were operating.
Watching the water come out of a tunnel.
Watching the water come out of a tunnel.
Learning about the water that goes back into the river.
Learning about the water that goes back into the river.
Checking out the down stream view.
Checking out the down stream view.

We found a lost lizard inside the power plant, and fortunately our reliable ranger was around to rescue and release it.

Releasing the lizard back outside where it belongs.
Releasing the lizard back outside where it belongs.

We learned that this power plant can’t control the amount of water coming out of the lake. It has to make power with what it can get. Yesterday it was producing 1.5 megawatts. At top production, it can generate 15 megawatts! That only happens when the river is running much higher than the 172 or so cfs it was running yesterday.

We are very grateful to both our partners with USACE at Abiquiu Lake and to our fantastic tour guide from the Department of Public Utilities for helping us set up this fantastic experience!

After our tour and a quick lunch, we had just enough time to sample benthic macroinvertebrates.

Carrying a kick net to shore.
Carrying a kick net to shore.
Finding benthic macroinvertebrates in a kick net.
Finding benthic macroinvertebrates in a kick net.
Examining and identifying benthic macroinvertebrates.
Examining and identifying benthic macroinvertebrates.

Lately we’ve been finding a huge number of mayflies.

As always, it was a fantastic day with our River Classroom. We only have a few more sessions before the summer break, so we have to soak up these experiences!

Christy

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