Engineering students present hydroelectric plant upgrades to city council

A group of BYU students recently met with city council members to present their findings on how to upgrade the hydro plant in Spring City, located in Central Utah at the heart of Sanpete County.

For their senior capstone project, civil engineering students Jacob Fullerton, Tyson James and David Willoughby have been figuring out how to improve Spring City’s hydro plant output while making it more efficient.

“Very rarely do projects come up where a 90-year-old hydroelectric plant needs to be looked at,” said Fullerton, the project team leader.

The plant, though still functioning, hasn’t changed much since its installation in the 1930s. The Spring City Power Board wanted to upgrade it to provide more reliable, locally produced green energy to its residents.

“The problem we were tasked with was to identify at least one alternative that could increase the total output of power using as much of the existing system as possible,” Fullerton said. “Our approach was to identify what improvements could be made for the lowest cost with future expansion in mind.”

After months of research and preparation, the team found that the city will need to upgrade the stainless steel pipes the facility uses, and the facility will need to either move upstream or downstream. Their findings will likely provide the groundwork for future capstone projects on the Spring City plant.

"Internships, summer jobs, and capstone projects such as this one give students a critical insight into the uncertainties and variability of real-world engineering problems in a way that the classroom can never duplicate,” said Dan Ames, BYU associate professor and the team’s faculty advisor. “As a result, these students are immeasurably more valuable to future employers than they otherwise would be."

All three team members graduated with their bachelor’s degrees in civil engineering this week. Fullerton and Willoughby will stay at BYU to earn their master’s degrees.


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