University of Notre Dame campus building.

New hydroelectric facility helps Notre Dame meet sustainability goals

The University of Notre Dame recently dedicated its new hydroelectric facility, ND Hydro. The 2.5-megawatt facility will generate about 7% of the campus’ power and offset an estimated 9,700 tons of carbon dioxide annually.

Project development

In 2016, the university entered an agreement with the city of South Bend, Indiana, to develop a hydro project along the St. Joseph River. Notre Dame leases an underground portion of a park, and it contributed funding toward the park’s renovation.

“It’s a challenging project. It’s a complex site with a complex set of considerations,” said Aaron Perri, executive director of Venues Parks and Arts for the city of South Bend.

Work on the hydro facility began in 2019, but the pandemic and logistical challenges slowed the pace. It uses the site’s existing concrete and timber crib dam to create the water levels necessary to turn 10 turbines. 

This facility reportedly is the first in North America to use Voith’s low-cost, modular hydro turbine technology. The compact, no-oil system design works in places where large, traditional systems aren’t possible. It fits with this park’s low head conditions and does not affect aesthetics.

Meeting sustainability goals

ND Hydro is the latest of several initiatives to increase the university’s sustainability through clean power generation and use. Leaders aim for the campus to achieve net-zero carbon emissions by 2050.

Last year, Notre Dame and Indiana Michigan Power jointly unveiled a 210-acre, 20 MW solar installation about seven miles from campus. The university also recently commissioned two geothermal plants. Plus, it partnered with Grind2Energy and Homestead Dairy to convert food waste to energy.