WENATCHEE, WA – It’s easy – flip a switch, complete a circuit and now you have light! Electricity may look simple, but there’s a lot that goes into harnessing the power of falling water to make electricity. It’s as much a marvel of modern science as it is magic.
Debbie Gallaher, Visitor Center manager explains it all begins with 11 million gallons of water from the Columbia River falling 93 feet every minute onto turbine blades to rotate a shaft and spin a generator that releases electrons. These electrons travel across power lines and to homes and businesses.
“All of this happens at the speed of light, which is more than 186,000 miles per second,” Gallaher said. “It takes longer to explain it than for all of this to actually happen!”
You can see this fascinating process in action on a hardhat tour of Rocky Reach Dam. These free 90-minute tours offer a behind-the-scenes glimpse into the people and technology that power more than 50,000 retail customers in Chelan County, plus utilities that serve customers across the Pacific Northwest.
At the same time, Chelan PUD is protecting salmon and steelhead swimming past the dam and wildlife along the river shore.
“People love the opportunity to go down and see the enormous size of the units,” Gallaher said. “Visitors can feel the vibration, hear the hum and see the tools that are used. They learn more than they ever thought when they started the tour.”
Here’s what you’ll see:
• Rocky Reach’s 11 massive generators up close, each weighing about 1.4 million pounds.
• The Columbia River in mid-stream from the forebay deck
• History come alive in the Museum of the Columbia
• Thousands of salmon and steelhead headed up the fish ladder
The Visitor Center café offers food and treats including ice cream, plus there are acres of lawns and gardens, a playground and hands-on fun for adults and kids.
The hardhat tours are this Saturday, July 15 and next Saturday, July 22, for those 12 and older, who can comfortably walk up to 1.5 miles and climb flights of stairs.
“I think there is something for everyone to learn,” Gallaher said.
Reserve your own hardhat tour now to get an inside look at the shocking science of hydroelectricity and the magic behind a light switch. Call 663-7522 to reserve your spot.