Grant County PUD

Public Education

Wanapum Dam Video Tour

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Summary

Grant County PUD crafted an innovative and concise video to educate the public on the value of hydropower. A capstone of its new fish and hydro interpretive center, the video distills hydropower’s technical language into a 3D virtual tour of how Wanapum Dam meets the renewable energy needs of millions of customers throughout the Pacific Northwest.

Click here to watch the video

Background and Challenge

The story of Grant County PUD is a source of great pride for those who call Grant County home. While the story is fascinating, it has been an ongoing challenge to provide a way for customers to experience the complex history of our hydropower legacy when they visit Wanapum and Priest Rapids dams.

As critical infrastructure requirements increase each year, there are residual challenges to hydroelectric generators wishing to tell their story and provide physical tours of operational hydroelectric plants. In addition to stringent security requirements, those with physical mobility issues have always had difficulties accessing areas of the dam for tours due to the confined spaces and vast expanses of walkways when visiting a plant stretching over a mile across the mighty Columbia River.

These challenges recently presented an opportunity when Grant PUD began work on a new hydro and fish interpretive center in 2015. A capstone component of the new fish and hydro interpretive center is a small theater where visitors both young and old are able to view a brief virtual tour of Wanapum Dam. While nothing can compare to physically standing in an operating hydroelectric plant of Wanapum Dam’s scale, this video provides an engaging and informative alternative to physical tours of the plant.

Innovation

Very seldom do members of the public understand the intricacies and multiple factors which contribute to meeting their energy needs. This video presents complex work in a simple, approachable way. The video provides a visual summary of how Wanapum Dam specifically serves Grant PUD’s customers. This video then explores how electricity is created, and the multiple factors which must be balanced in every decision a hydroelectric operator makes. Raising
awareness about the complexities of hydropower are now incredibly packaged into a presentation just over 10 minutes.

3D Experience: Historically, no one other than a small juvenile salmon was able to see the inside of a turbine while in operation. Now everyone is able to take a look inside a turbine as it spins along courtesy of the film’s 3D animation. Views of sections of the plant where access was once impossible or hazardous for the public are now provided by this video. The video creators used an opportunity to utilize Computer Aided Design (CAD) technology and bring to life a realistic 3D experience. CAD files for the dam had never been put to use in this way before and involved creating a series of layers and overlays to create a realistic experience for the viewer. Each animation reinforces highly technical content in a way that is approachable and inviting for visitors

Results

At the debut of the Grant PUD Visitors Center in December 2015, hundreds of local school children, members of the media, elected officials and employees were able to enjoy the video for the first time in our new theater. Children were amazed at the equipment both large and small that powers Wanapum Dam.. Over the coming years the virtual tour will be available to throngs of visitors stopping by the Hydro and Fish Interpretive Center located adjacent to Wanapum Dam.

Employees, school-children, customers and visitors are now able to see a side of Wanapum Dam which had never before been available. For the first time the control room, spinning turbines, cross sections of the dam, components of the generators, layers of the dam’s earthen embankment were all made accessible to viewers.

Stakeholder Quotes

Kristen Bates – Science Cadre Member, North Central Educational Service District – 
“NCESD has a long-term partnership with Grant County PUD in an educational role and I was pleased when Thomas Stredwick, contacted me to evaluate and make suggestions to the script for the Wanapum Dam Video making sure that they (GC PUD) were addressing science learning standards and concepts. They have skillfully woven the concepts of energy and scale throughout the script as well as providing insight to stakeholders of the Columbia River and the need for the hydropower produced.”