Stopping Along the River – A Tour of the White Rock Powerhouse at Clean Currents

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Stopping Along the River – A Tour of the White Rock Powerhouse at Clean Currents


August 22, 2022


Jeremy Chase-Israel, Content Development Specialist, NHA


Stopping Along the River – A Tour of the White Rock Powerhouse at Clean Currents

NHA thanks our sponsors:

Waterpower Week 2023

The White Rock Powerhouse, situated alongside the South Fork of the American River, is available to tour during the upcoming Clean Currents 2022 Conference + Trade Show. As a host utility, SMUD is offering a half-day tour on Tuesday morning, October 18. Participants will get a full behind-the-scenes look at White Rock Powerhouse, from the switchyard to the turbine floor. The powerhouse features all-new 230-kV SF6 breakers, a control system, and a CO2 system disconnect.  Spots are limited, so please secure your spot by October 10, 2022.

At an elevation of 1,000 feet, the White Rock Powerhouse holds a unique perch above the South Fork of the American River, which flows 87 miles, draining a watershed on the western slopes of the majestic Sierra Nevada mountains. White Rock is the largest of nine powerhouses in SMUD’s Upper American Project (FERC No. 2101).


White Rock powerhouse directly discharges into the Chili Bar Project (FERC No. 2155), widely known as the most popular recreation stream reach for whitewater rafting in North America. Attracting over 100,000 visitors a year, the South Fork American River possesses rapids ranging from class II (intermediate) to class V (expert) and supports numerous private rafting companies in the Coloma/Lotus area.

The White Rock Powerhouse, which is the main attraction of the tour, is part of SMUD’s Upper American River Project. The system consists of 11 dams and nine powerhouses that tap the upper tributaries of the American River drainage in the Sierra Nevada for power generation.

The total installed capacity is over 688 MW, and it produces 1.8 billion KWh annually during an average rainfall year, which is enough electricity to power 20% of Sacramento’s electrical needs.

White Rock Powerhouse has served as more than just a powerhouse. During the Caldor Fire, which was a large wildfire that burned 221,835 acres in the Sierra Nevada during 2021 and forced the evacuation of SMUD’s Fresh Pond facility, the powerhouse also served as SMUD’s hydro maintenance headquarters over the course of the month-long event.

As part of the tour, participants will develop an appreciation for White Rock Powerhouse as both a cornerstone of SMUD’s 2030 Zero Carbon hydro portfolio and a feat of engineering.


Clean Current attendees interested in signing up for the tour can learn more here and purchase a tour ticket ($50) when completing online registration for Clean Currents 2022.

Sacramento Municipal Utility District is one of six host utilities of the event. The agency is joined by Bureau of Reclamation, California Department of Water Resources, Northern California Power Agency, Pacific Gas and Electric Company, and Yuba Water Agency.