Upgrades at Bagnell Dam nearly complete

Workers at the Bagnell Dam are nearly finished performing a series of upgrades which will make the facility more environmentally friendly.

Come mid-October, the dam will have three new transformers that use gas instead of oil for cooling. Ameren employees say by using inert gas instead of oil for this purpose, the utility company reduces the risk of an oil spill or fire at the dam.

Production Supervisor Engineer Jim Lueckenhoff said he is excited that the dam is having the new units installed. "We had our first one installed about three years ago. They're very reliable, we haven't had any unexpected trips, no shutdowns." Lukenhoff said.

The old transformers were phased out over the past three years.

Although they proved to be extremely reliable through over eight decades of operation, Lueckenhoff said the units had reached the end of their lifetime and needed to be replaced.

Ameren staff say the new transformers are the only ones of their kind in North America.

The particular model Ameren has upgraded to at Bagnell Dam is manufactured by Toshiba in Japan.

The plant that makes the transformers being installed is the only one of its kind that makes transformers as big as the ones at Bagnell.

Transformers are an important step in generating power. When water comes in through the dam and passes through a turbine, an electrical current is generated. The water then passes through the dam into the Osage River. The current generated by the turbines is then sent up to transformers, which amplify the voltage for transmission over high voltage power lines.

Aside from taking a significant step towards modernizing the dam's electrical transformers, Luekenhoff says Ameren has other goals in mind as well.

"There is no potential for fire, no potential for oil to spill into the river, so it's a good location for us with this... to keep environmentally conscious," Lueckenhoff said.

For Consulting Engineer Alan Sullivan, the project has special meaning.

"I am blessed to have my grandfather and one of my uncles as construction workers, so I keep thinking about how my grandfather saw those transformers come here when he was on the job. Now, I'm here 80 years later watching them go out the door," Sullivan said.

The new upgrades will likely help mid-Missourians keep the lights turned on for decades to come.