MWRA Hydroelectric Plant Installation

Water for Boston Creates Electricity

HPU Control Panel

A hydropower or hydroelectric plant is one of the oldest sources of renewable energy. These plants use the natural flow of water to generate electricity. Sorensen Systems assisted with the management of one such plant in Massachusetts.


Gravity influences the travel of water for about 85 miles, starting from the Quabbin Reservoir in Western Massachusetts and the Wachusett Reservoir in Central Massachusetts. This continues all the way to Boston. As the water travels through aqueducts to a treatment plant located roughly 30 miles west of Boston, it becomes pressurized. Then, it continues its journey to a network of tanks responsible for depressurizing and storing the potable water. Finally, the water distributes to Boston and neighboring communities. The water gains significant velocity as it approaches the treatment area, necessitating the use of specialized reducing valves. These valves play a crucial role in decelerating the water’s speed. This allows it to enter the system at a controlled rate suitable for seamless integration.

Energy Recovery Project

John Ford, Project Manager at Sorensen Systems, said “by by-passing the pressure reducing valves at the Loring Road facility with a 200 kW turbine-generator unit, instead of dissipating the energy with the sleeve valves, it is converted into electricity.” A state mandate initiated the project. The mandate required it to obtain a minimum of 15 percent of its annual electricity needs from renewable sources. The Executive Director of the Massachusetts Water Resources Authority (MWRA), Frederick Laskey, was quoted in the Boston Globe, “It basically helps get us off the roller coaster of utility bills. The more we can self-generate, the less vulnerable we are to the peaks and valleys of the energy commodities market,” said Laskey.

Hydraulic power unit and generator at hydroelectric facility at MWRA facility on Loring Road

Turbine Generator and Controls

As the water flows through the turbine, it decreases in pressure. Then, the induction generator connected to the turbine’s water wheel transforms this energy into electric power. “The electric power generated through this process is used to power the equipment in the vault, with balance exported back to the utility for revenue,” said Ford.

The Loring Road facility features large tanks for storing water. These tanks replace a century-old system of open reservoirs. A protective barrier covers the new tanks. Which protects the water against contamination. This new storage system complies with the Federal Safe Drinking Water Act. Two reservoirs supply the facility. This provides an average daily water supply of 200 million gallons of drinking water.

Hydroelectric turbine control panel

Sorensen Systems Oversight

The team of engineers and technicians at Sorensen Systems took on the responsibility for overall project management of the hydroelectric plant. Additionally, the systems that Sorensen Systems oversaw included:

  • Turbine/Generator Assembly
    • James Leffel and Co. horizontal Francis Turbine, base frame, inlet expansion box, draft tube section, Marelli Motori induction generator
  • Penstock & Draftube Hydraulic Actuated Butterfly Valves
    • 30 inch AWWA C-504 Butterfly Valves by Val-Matic Valve
    • Hydraulic Actuator (double acting scotch yoke) by Rotork Fluid System
  • Inlet & Outlet Electric Actuated Butterfly Valves
    • 30 inch AWWA C-504 Butterfly Valve by Val-Matic Valve
    • Electric Actuator by AUMA Actuators Inc
  • Hydraulic Power Unit Assembly
    • Custom built by Sorensen Systems using Parker Hannifin hose, fittings, filtration and manifolds
  • Circuit Breaker Panel
    • Custom built by Sorensen Systems using Eaton Magnum DS circuit breaker and Balser GPS-100 multifunction protective relay
  • Turbine Control Panel
    • Custom built by Sorensen Systems using Allen-Bradley SLC500 PLC and Panelview Plus HMI
  • SCADA Panel
    • Custom built by Sorensen Systems to provide remote control capability
  • UPS Panel
    • Custom built by Sorensen Systems using APC-Smart UPS (uninterruptable power system) with extended time battery packs