$3.2 million upgrade re-energizes Nevada Irrigation District’s Lake Combie powerhouse

By: Gus Thomson, Journal Staff Writer
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Power production has been amped up at Nevada Irrigation District’s Lake Combie dam after a $3.2 million makeover. Power production on the district’s Combie North Powerhouse is on track to produce 66 percent more energy because of improvements to the 25-year-old plant and better use of water it has access to off Lake Combie. Don Wight, water operations manager, said the newly completed nine-month makeover at the plant not only means an increase in power generation. It also will result in an increase in revenue from power sales that the district can use to help offset water rates and fund future projects, he said. Pacific Gas & Electric markets the energy under contract with the Grass Valley-based water district. The Combie North Powerhouse is located on the north side of the Bear River just below the dam at Combie Reservoir. The reservoir skirts the Nevada-Placer county line between Meadow Vista and the Lake of the Pines area. Now capable of generating 500 kilowatts of hydroelectric power, the North Powerhouse takes water from the flow the district moves along flumes to western Placer County, from Auburn to Lincoln. The powerhouse sits opposite the Combie South Powerhouse, which can generate 1,500 kilowatts of power and uses water flowing along the Bear River. The upgrade on the North Powerhouse – spurred by the breakdown of a generator that was judged not worth repairing – included installation of a new turbine, generator, building, penstock, control gates, bypass and spillway. Work was done by T&S Construction of Sacramento. Project engineer Doug Roderick said the plant, which formerly produced 300 kilowatts, would generate enough energy to supply about 700 homes. Sales revenues would allow the district to recoup its investment in the plant in about eight years, he said. The plant now has an estimated 50-year lifespan. In all, the district operates seven power plants that generate enough electricity to supply the equivalent of 60,000 homes.