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It’s all about power

By Staff | Jan 31, 2014

Let’s imagine a scenario that’s so far out, so outlandish, so crazy, that no one could imagine it.

Let’s imagine that our utilities infrastructure, and civilization, collapses – for just a little while, maybe.

Would Estherville be prepared.

Well, yes, actually.

Bret Mace, who as foreman of the city power plant, has the job of making sure Estherville has the backup power it needs, told Estherville Rotarians Thursday the history of the plant and how it’s in a sense both a museum and a way out in the event of a total blackout.

First in operation in 1894 and converted to diesel in 1915, the plant actually provided all of Estherville’s power until the 1970s. Now, the city buys its power and the plant is a backup and runs about 20-30 hours a year.

The engines are the same as what you might find on a cargo shop or in the mining industry. Unfortunately, they’re no longer manufactured in the US but overseas, and those are high-speed engines.

That doesn’t mean the engines in the plant aren’t reliable, though. Mace said a 1969 unit recently overhauled will be good for another 40 years.

So let’s say the town went black – what would happen then.

“In the first hour we would have the first loop opened up,” said Mace. That’s when you would hear 1,200-pound pistons running at 370 RPMs. Mace said one of the engines would not even fit in a single-car garage and stands a story and a half high.