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Discussion Starter #1
Not sure where else to turn for this question. If anyone knows someone who is knowledgeable about this I would love to ask some more specific questions.

How many people minimum does it take to run a big hydroelectric dam like Hoover or Grand Coolee? How about smaller dams? Is that likely to change in the next five years? Are there any automatic systems or are they still running on the mechanics as installed in the middle of the last century?

Thanks,
Rob
 

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According to The Postman, it takes one Tom Petty to run a hydroelectric dam.

You may wish to seek out a more reliable sources however.
 

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Discussion Starter #5
HSh said:
My dad works in the industry. Might be able to pass your questions along.
That would be really awesome.
My idea is that five years in the future we may have added some automation and I'm hoping that 1-3 people could keep a big damn running for a year or more. But I want to not be totally talking out my rear!
 

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Sounds like Google has the answer.  Maybe I shouldn't bug my dad.  :-X

TBH it doesn't seem like anything is changing rapidly in the industry and I doubt 1-5 yrs will make much difference.
 
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RobertLSlater said:
That would be really awesome.
My idea is that five years in the future we may have added some automation and I'm hoping that 1-3 people could keep a big damn running for a year or more. But I want to not be totally talking out my rear!
Actually, the automation technology to run (operate) such a big dam with few personnel have been available for a few years. And it can even be done remotely. However, it would take a few more people to maintain the equipment/instrumentation. Rotating parts wear out, systems need to be inspected/tested, etc. Many tasks can be handled in house, some specialized equipment need the manufacturer to work on the repairs/maintenance. So on any given day, you might find no one at all, or a team of workers erecting a scaffolding, and everything in between.

Good luck!
 

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It's been controlled "automatically" and remotely for a long time because all the turbine outputs have to be synched together. The dam operators (who are often Army Corps of Engineers) are responsible for the dam "operation" but "control" is usually remote, via an organization like BPA (in the Northest). That function also has to manage transmission line capacity, becuase those two are intimately related.
 

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I had to research this for my last book (I attack the Robert Moses Power Plant) and I found that operation and maintenance of the dam and its turbines was fairly straightforward. The challenge seems to be transmission of the power once its produced. IE: grid age and function vs demand. Since the power can't be "stored" its a constantly changing issue. I found a bunch of safety mechanisms and ways to route power across the grid, but not being an expert on this it was difficult to picture. It was hard to determine where the majority of the workers were but I got the impression they were in transmission more-so than production.

Try reading Gridlock by Bryon Dorgan, he's written a few books with the power grid in the plot.

Best I can do. Hope that helps.
 

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It doesn't take very many people to "run" a hydro dam.  It takes a skilled crew of many to maintain a dam.  The maintenance schedules are planned well in advance and according to some reports if all the humans involved up and disappeared.  Many hydro and nuclear power plants would run on auto computer pilot for several years, depending on the last maintenance cycle.
 
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