HELENA – The Holter Dam provides over 300 million kilowatts of electricity for Montana residents each year.
NorthWestern Energy which operated the dam held a celebration and public tour Tuesday to help mark its 100th anniversary. Made of concrete and steel, the 1,300-foot long, 100-foot tall hydroelectric dam holds back the Missouri River to form the Holter Reservoir.
NorthWestern Energy owns and operates the facility as a part of its Montana Integrated Hydro system. The system forms the foundation of the electric supply for customers.
NorthWestern Energy CEO Bob Rowe said the dam is an outstanding engineering accomplishment.
“It’s an extraordinary legacy of the people who built this dam a hundred years ago (who) 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 eventually take over 500 people eight years to construct the dam.
NorthWestern Energy Superintendent of Hydro Jeremy Butcher said even though it is a century old the dam is in fantastic shape.
“The dam itself is actually stronger than the way 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 limestone 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 300,000 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.
“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 hydropower 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 existing sites.