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Water power coming soon, after 3 decades of waiting

SOUTH BEND, Ind. – The city of South Bend is about three weeks away from reaping the benefits of water power.

A hydroelectric turbine was installed in August along the St. Joseph River. It should be up and running by a ribbon cutting on September 26th.

This turbine was bought by the city of South Bend back in 1980’s. It was originally part of the plan for the Fish Ladder along the East Race.

"The South Bend Municipal Energy Office nicknamed her Little Gennie…for the little generator," said Kathleen Petitjean.

Petitjean first heard about the idea of hydro power plan from a mentor of hers in the ninties.

When she needed a master’s project on energy while studying at Indiana University South Bend, she decided to dig deeper into this lost project.

"I did know that the city had purchased the smaller turbine and nobody quite knew where it was, but they knew that it was somewhere," said Petitjean.

She found out the turbine was being stored in a warehouse at the airport and most had forgotten about the project all together.

"I started a blog site, I put together a power point presentation, and would show it to anybody who would listen," she remembered.

Eventually she got some encouragement from former South Bend Mayor Steve Leucke and the project started to pick up steam.

The Green Ribbon Commission was formed and eventually a Municipal Energy Office started that recently helped to relaunch the project.

No matter how long it took to get the turbine installed, Petitjean said it’ll benefit the city for years to come.

"To reconnect with the river this way by tapping her energy which is clean, renewable, it’s a huge win for the city," she said.

The machinery was installed along the East Race on August 22nd.

The city said it’s waiting on a vacuum pump to arrive then it can test the turbine.

Then electricity work still needs to be done to connect the energy to Howard Park, which is where it will be used.

Once up and running it should power everything at the park including the ice rink and recreational facility. The city said it should save about $40,000 a year on energy costs.

A ribbon cutting is set for September 26th and everyone is invited to come out.


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