Kaukauna Utilities cuts ribbon on new hydroelectric plant

KAUKAUNA – Kaukauna has provided its own utility service for years and with the ceremonial opening Tuesday of a new $38 million hydroelectric plant, that’ll continue for quite a while.

Kaukauna Utilities says it’s happy the plant project was done on time and just under budget, but the project is also costing customers more, in the short-term, anyway.

The new Badger Hydro plant is doing double duty. Kaukauna Utilities built it to replace two old facilities, one built about a century ago and the other about 80 years ago.

“Been working on this project for more than 12 years and, you know, construction took 2 years. It’s a very good feeling to have this project done,” said Jeff Feldt, Kaukauna Utilities general manager.

“We had full-time work for a good chunk of our employees here for many, many, many months,” said Paul Coenen with Boldt Company, which oversaw the project.

The project included not only building the new plant, but also rebuilding the canal walls, block by block.

“We’ve got several city blocks on both sides of the canal rebuilt 100 percent, all cast concrete,” said Coenen.

The new plant started running in January. It puts out 25 percent more electricity than the old ones combined. The facility can power about 4,500 homes per year. But it all comes at a price for customers.

“Had about a six percent rate increase and that will remain stable now with this coming back online,” said Feldt.

That rate increase went into effect last year.

Kaukauna Mayor Gene Rosin told us the increase was upsetting to some, but he said hydroelectricity is a stable source of power, because the fuel, water, is free. Rosin told FOX 11 the cost is less likely to rise over time than fossil fuels.

“It costs a lot of dollars and that will be returned, they will realize that over time,” the mayor explained.

Kaukauna Utilities expects Badger Hydro to put out power for the next 100 years.

Rosin said that will help the city live up to its nickname, The Electric City.

“It’s all part of Kaukauna’s history,” he said.

One of the old Badger plants is still standing. It’s being converted into a museum highlighting the utility’s and area’s histories.

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