View Full Version : Hydro dam structure and maintenance

12-30-2015, 03:43 AM
I need some inside information! My characters are headed toward the finale, and it takes place at a dam. Basically, the bad guy is trying to sabotage something (the heroes don't know what it is), and he's kidnapped one of their friends because he thinks she can help him (she can't). First of all, I've got a couple of them pretending to help the baddie, in exchange for their friend's safety. Meanwhile, the others are searching for her (the girl) while bad guy is distracted.

I've been researching hydro dams, so I have a pretty good idea of how they work and how they're set up, and such. But I really need help filling in the details. I'd actually like to draw a good map just to get a good spatial picture in my head (and because they are going to be actively moving around). Anyway, I'm looking for information on the dam and powerhouse inside. Like, would there be access tunnels and where? Where would the control room be in relation to the generators? What other areas/rooms/etc would be inside the powerhouse? What kind of staff (security or otherwise) could you expect at night? Other things that might be interesting, dangerous, or worth mentioning.

Thanks in advance!

King Neptune
12-30-2015, 03:49 AM
Where? And who owns? When was it built?

Hydro stations vary very widely. There are the monsters like the Hoover Dam station, and they range all the way down to unmanned, sporadic producers. Who built it, when and where determine much of the construction type, size, etc. There used to be tours of some dams, but they probably ended that. The more essential questions are what part of the country and how big.

12-30-2015, 04:07 AM
Alabama, built somewhere between 1960 and 1970, concrete. It doesn't need to be a very big dam. Two generators, maybe three? The surrounding area is very hilly.

King Neptune
12-30-2015, 06:28 PM
There probably is a large open area inside the dam at the top end of the generators. The turbines are in the water a fair distance below the generators, which are accessed from the Powerhouse. People service the turbo-generators from the top, and the electrical cables are at the top. The google images give a fair idea of the range of what hydro stations can look like. https://www.google.com/search?q=hydro+electric+station&biw=1486&bih=852&tbm=isch&tbo=u&source=univ&sa=X&sqi=2&ved=0ahUKEwiH2uvN4oPKAhWD6SYKHbzMAQ0Q7AkIPg

The powerhouses that I have seen are mostly open space; the size depends on the size of the dam and the generators. The number of people involved would also vary depending on how many were necessary. The smallest ones I have seen were visited every week, unless there was a problem. Some industrial units aren't supervised per se, because there are people walking near them all of the time, so someone would notice a change in sound or vibration. The only tunnels that I have seen were the headrace and the tailrace, the tunnels through which the water go. If the turbines need to be serviced; that is generally ndone from the top. The whole generator and the turbine can be lifted out from the top, but that is avoided.

12-31-2015, 11:40 PM

Keep in mind that hydro dams in the US, since 9/11, are heavily secured, monitored and usually guarded.

Now, since you set it in Alabama, why not contact Alabama Power (http://www.alabamapower.com/) and ask?


01-01-2016, 08:52 AM
Thank you very much! That's a lot of help. I was planning on calling AL dams, but couldn't figure out how to phrase the question. I don't articulate well over the phone.