Notre Dame, Venues Parks & Arts begin hydro plant construction

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The University of Notre Dame and South Bend’s Venues Parks & Arts have broken ground on a 2.5-megawatt hydroelectric generation facility on the dam in the St. Joseph River in downtown South Bend.

The plant, which will be primarily underground, is expected to generate about seven percent of the university’s electrical needs and offset nearly 9,700 tons of carbon dioxide annually. Underground transmission lines will transmit the electricity generated by the new facility to campus.

Under a 2016 agreement, Notre Dame will lease the site for 50 years after the city transferred a Federal Energy Regulatory Commission exemption to the university to operate a hydro power facility.

The restoration of Seitz Park also kicked off in conjunction with the hydro facility construction. Notre Dame will pay the city $1 million to assist with the renovation of the park, which is adjacent to the dam. Initial concepts for the park’s redesign include a building with restrooms and a vending kiosk, a new performance area, improvements to the Riverwalk and a new park entrance.

The hydro project is expected to be completed by the summer of 2021, while Seitz Park is expected to reopen by fall of 2021.

The hydro facility is one facet in Notre Dame’s wide-ranging sustainability plan, which is designed to eliminate the use of coal in the university’s power plant by the end of 2020 and cut its carbon footprint by half by 2030.

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