Powering the future
A storied structure on the Clackamas River will soon begin a new chapter of its history.
The Faraday Powerhouse, Portland General Electric's first dam on the Clackamas River that was built 111 years ago, will be demolished next month and rebuilt shortly after.
Sean Flak, senior project manager for Portland General Electric, described the new Faraday Powerhouse as "a longstanding hydropower asset for our customers."
Though the new powerhouse will provide PGE and its customers with many benefits, the company also recognizes the initial structure's significance in Estacada's history and plans to preserve several elements of the building.
The city of Estacada and the Faraday Powerhouse have shared a close relationship since construction on the latter was finished in 1908. Initially known as the Cazadero Dam, the powerhouse was one element that contributed to Estacada's early population growth.
PGE archaeologist Mini Sharma-Ogle noted that many people moved to Estacada because of the railroad between the town and Portland — and to work at the powerhouse.
"They both gave to each other. The project fueled the city's growth through the railroad, and the city provided labor," Sharma-Ogle said. "Relationships were built, and there was synergy."
The Faraday Powerhouse was designed by TW Sullivan, who was also the mind behind PGE's first power plant, the Willamette Falls hydro plant.
Sharma-Ogle noted that the powerhouse was an innovative structure on the Clackamas River.
"Nothing else was here in terms of big projects harnessing power in the river," she said.
According to an account on the Oregon Encyclopedia, when construction on the initial Faraday Powerhouse was complete, power from the dam was sent to Portland to illuminate a sign at the top of a local newspaper office. The sign was made from incandescent lamps that said "Cazadero's Greetings to Portland."
Since its completion, the Faraday Powerhouse has provided power to the region for more than 100 years and weathered several storms.
"(Faraday) has its place in history," Sharma-Ogle said.
Looking to the future
The powerhouse will be shut down on May 1, at which time demolition will begin. This process is expected to last through this fall, and the new powerhouse will open in March of 2021. The project is estimated to cost between $40-60 million.
Along with the rest of PGE's power sources, Faraday feeds into the company's grid, which in turns distributes power to customers. While Faraday is offline during demolition and construction, the grid will use power from other PGE locations and the wholesale power market.
Currently, the Faraday Powerhouse produces 16 megawatts of energy per hour. With the new design, it will generate 18 megawatts while using the same amount of water.
Though the new turbines will go deeper into the water, they will be safer for fish.
"The lake is not part of the migration channel, but if juvenile fish do get in, the turbines have bigger gaps and fewer blades," Flak explained.
The new design will also feature new flood protections and additional seismic capacity.
Because of the powerhouse's location, construction will take place along the water, and a structure called a cofferdam will be built to keep the area dry.
"The fish and the water can go around it, and we can continue to work in a dry area," said Flak.
The project will also include upgrades to the neighboring Faraday Park, including the implementation of trails and docks along the water.
Preserving the past
The Faraday Powerhouse has influenced many elements of Estacada, including its artistic community. Artists journeyed to the site in 2012 through the Powerhouse Project, a collaboration between PGE and the Estacada Arts Commission that allowed creators to visit facilities along the Clackamas River as inspiration for new pieces.
Work from the Powerhouse Project was displayed at the Estacada Library, PGE headquarters in Portland, the Clackamas County Development Services Building and Clackamas Community College.
As the current Faraday Powerhouse is retired, Sharma-Ogle is identifying pieces of
the building to save and preserve.
"We want to glean history out of the building and see which elements we can keep," she said. "This is our shared history. The story belongs to the people of Estacada and PGE workers. Some of it should remain here."
PGE plans to include items from the powerhouse in interpretive installations along the updated Faraday Lake area, so the community can remain connected to them.
"We'll try to keep the next generation in mind, rather than having it in a box at a museum," she said.