HELENA – Each year Holter Dam provides over 300 million kilowatts of electricity for Montana residents.
To honor the facility turning a century old, NorthWestern Energy is celebrating 100 years of hydropower in the state.
On Tuesday, July 31 the public had the opportunity to tour Holter Dam for the facility’s centennial celebration.
Made of concrete and steel, the 1,300 feet long and 100 feet tall hydroelectric dam holds back the Missouri River to form the Holter Reservoir.
NorthWestern Energy owns and operates the facility as a part of their Montana Integrated Hydro system. The system forms the foundation of the electric supply for their customers.
CEO of NorthWestern Energy Bob Rowe said the dam is a truly outstanding engineering accomplishment.
“It’s an extraordinary legacy of the people who built this dam a hundred years ago were visionaries,” said Rowe, “We stand on the shoulders people that did all kinds of jobs. Some of their names are in the history books, some are not but it’s a real honor.”
Named for prominent Montana Pioneer Anton Holter, construction of the dam began in 1908 but had to halt after the original Hauser steel dam failed.
It would take over 500 people eight years to construct the dam.
NorthWestern’s Superintendent of Hydro Jeremy Butcher says even though it is a century old the dam is in fantastic shape.
“The dam itself is actually stronger than the say it was built due to the way concrete cures,” said Butcher, “So if you were to go inside the dam you’ll see that the concrete still has original wood grains and somewhat of a calcification somewhat like lime stone in Lewis and Clark caverns.”
Today the Holter Dam has a capacity of 50 megawatts and the electricity produced is used to supply more than 300,00 residential and commercial customers in Montana with clean and renewable energy.
Leroy Coleman with the National Hydro Power Association said Holter Dam is a perfect example of how stable a resource hydropower is and represents.
“Holter dam is a shining example of that hydro helped build this country and has continued to provide clean renewable energy and we believe it can for many generations,” said Coleman, ”It’s a window to the past for ingenuity and Montana might.”
Northwestern Energy believes there is still a lot of room for growth in hydro power in Montana.
“Most people would say of all the renewable resources hydro is the best,” said Rowe, “It’s the most predictable it has the highest capacity factor and it provides services integrating other carbon free resources.”
Currently, NorthWestern Energy is exploring cost effective options for increasing output at their existing sites.