Wednesday/ Grand Coulee Dam

The Grand Coulee Dam was constructed shortly after the Great Depression, and provided jobs to thousands. At first feared to be a white elephant of sorts (it produced lots of electric power with not quite enough demand for it), it was put to good use during World War II. It provided power to Boeing Company in Seattle, to shipbuilders in Portland, Oregon, and to an aluminum smelter in Spokane on the border with Montana.

A coulee is a kind of valley or drainage zone. The Grand Coulee is an ancient river bed in north-central Washington State. And the Grand Coulee Dam is a massive concrete gravity dam on the Columbia River, built to produce hydroelectric power and to provide irrigation water. Only the Three Gorges dam in the Yangtze River in Hubei province, China, is a bigger dam in terms of concrete used for the dam wall and construction.

The original dam was constructed from 1933 to 1940 at a cost of $300 million. The Third Power Plant, constructed from 1967 to 1980, cost $700 million.  If the dam were constructed today, it would cost $8.26 billion.  The dam today generates some 20 billion kW-hrs of electricity every year, distributed to 11 states.

Clockwise from the top: Inside the visitors center; the dam wall with the eleven spillways and several 230 kV transmission lines strung out in front of the wall; looking vertically down from the dam wall (a little water is spilling from spill tubes in the dam wall); on top of the dam wall during a tour of the dam.
On top is a picture from inside the Pump-Generating Plant, during our tour. The green silos are huge: 5 stories tall and housing enormous pumps that pump water uphill to a man-made irrigation lake called Banks Lake. At the far end are units that look very similar, but that can act as generators as well (when water from Banks Lake flow back through it), as shown in the diagram in the bottom.

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