1A Two companies want water power

By Sarah Doty

Post-Bulletin, Rochester MN

DRESBACH — Water may soon be producing more clean energy in southeastern Minnesota.

Lock and Dam No. 7 in Dresbach, 65 miles east of Rochester on the Mississippi River, is the latest target, with two companies competing for the rights to construct a hydropower turbine system to generate electricity.

Gundersen Lutheran Health System in La Crosse, Wis., and Free Flow Power Corp. based in Gloucester, Mass., both have applied for a preliminary permit application through the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission, and both applications were recently accepted. Only one will receive the permit.


Next, a 60-day public comment period takes place.

Celeste Miller, spokeswoman at the energy regulatory commission, said comments filed will help influence which company’s permit is chosen. If the applications are considered equal, the first filed likely would receive the permit.

The permit doesn’t guarantee construction; it grants a three-year study period for the company to look at the project’s viability, apply for a license and have priority on the site.

Free Flow Power has suggested a 14.5 megawatt project with 25 "very low head" power-generating units, a type of unit with little environmental impact, and 75 hydrokinetic generating units. They have proposed using the existing dam and an existing reservoir to generate an estimated 73,600 megawatt-hours.

Gundersen Lutheran’s proposal is much smaller, with 4.9 megawatts suggested by using a seven-turbine array in an auxiliary lock that is currently dormant. Jeff Rich, executive director of the business services at Gundersen Lutheran, predicts it would generate 41,000 megawatt-hours of electricity a year.

Gundersen Lutheran’s proposal is just the latest in a string of initiatives by the medical center to try to meet its goal of becoming energy neutral or independent by 2014.

"We are going to need to use some energy, so we are trying to do renewable energy projects that will offset that consumption," Rich said.

Hydropower will help get them closer to that goal, and ideally bring down the cost of health care.


"Energy costs have continued to rise," Rich said. "So that cost — we spent $5.5 million in energy in 2008 — that cost is passed on to the patients."

For more information, visit

Free Flow Power

Gundersen Lutheran Health System


U.S. Army Corps of Engineers Lock and Dam No. 7


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