Black Brook Hydro Dam, Apple River, Little Falls, Wisconsin

If you asked someone what the most important product produced in the Deer Park area was, odds are they would not think of electricity.

The Black Brook Hydro power plant has taken on new importance in the 2003 era. It generates electric power using only the water flowing down the Apple River without pollution, heating, radiation, noise or environmental damage for about 600 homes.

Danger Water May Rise Suddenly
In mid-April 2003 all water is passing through one generator only and the discharge end shown above is typically quiet.

Black Brook Hydro Dam
Because of heavy rain the Black Brook Dam power plant is producing more power than usual during the summer of 2002 as pictured on August 25, 2002.

The dam has a 400 KW and a 220 KW generator of 1919 vintage quietly producing pollution-free power. Steve Martinson, dam operator, says with the high water of 2002 the dam is grossing 400 dollars a day on the wholesale power market.

The dam's turbines produce the equivalent of 500 horsepower.

On September 8, 2002 he said the water in the reservoir was about 6 inches too high because Amery was letting lots of water go through their dam. But he said if he opened more flood gates to lower the pool quickly he would flood the highway 65 bridge.

A long-time Black Brook area resident, Steve maintains the facility with TLC keeping the structure and spillway clean and operating smoothly.

The power of the Apple turns the rotor winding excited with direct current causing a rotating magnetic field. The magnetic field passes through wires in the stator (the stator winding embedded in the core) producing electricity.

The problem is finding the considerable amount of energy necessary to rotate the shaft at the lowest expense in labor, equipment and in 2003 minimal damage to the environment.

Steve Martinson, dam operator for North American Hydro Inc., a Neshkoro, Wisconsin company, poses in front of a 220 KW generator.

Generator Room, Black Brook Dam, Little Falls Wisconsin

During the 1950's Black Brook was maintained by a resident dam operator as a peaking operation. In the morning hours the Apple downstream would be nearly dry, rising by early evening to near flood stage levels as water was fed through the generator turbine. Today the Black Brook operation has two small generators and it can generate power during low water providing a steady flow of power 24 hours a day, year-round.

The dam operator works on a part time basis, about 2 hours a day. The dam has been abandoned in the recent past but is now economically viable with smart management and equipment that fits the river.

Black Brook Dam can feed power to users nearby with minimal line losses. The trend 20 years ago was to build very large power plants. The trend in the 2000's is to build smaller plants near the point of use with natural gas-powered turbines as the current leading choice.

Black Brook Dam Electric Panel
A vintage control panel manufactured by Electric Machinery, Minneapolis, MN many years ago that monitors each generator and keeps the Black Brook facility in sync with the Midwest area power grid. If the plant gets out of sync the facility is knocked off-line. Power plants and grids out of sync with each other would melt down if connected together.

The two light bulbs and the meter on the panel in the upper right hand corner indicate when the generators are in sync with the power grid. When the lights are off and the needle is in the middle, no voltage is present between the grid and Black Brook signifying a zero-voltage (safe) condition to connect. Steve says lightning will throw the facility out of sync and he has to reset the operation.

Not pictured is a monorail crane hoist in the high ceiling. This is necessary to service and repair the equipment over the long service life of a generator. The high ceiling is necessary when pulling the long shaft with the turbine submerged below the surface of the Apple.

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