Willow Island, West Virginia is a small community along the Ohio River. In 1978, it was probably best known as the location of a large, coal-burning power plant. But nowadays, the town has a future in hydropower.

American Municipal Power, Inc. (AMP), a nonprofit electric utility corporation, has been financing the construction of a new hydroelectric facility that will use the Ohio River’s water to provide clean energy to the region. The company is retrofitting an existing structure owned by the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers, the Willow Island Locks and Dam.

Groundbreaking for the project took place in 2011, with work to establish the hydroelectric turbines and generators completed in February 2016. Along with those efforts, project managers are concerned with minimizing the environmental impact of hydropower generation. That necessitates collecting background data on the river’s temperature and dissolved oxygen levels, parameters important to the aquatic ecosystem.

To gather those baseline dissolved oxygen and temperature measurements, officials at AMP worked with NexSens Technology to source the equipment needed to establish monitoring stations along the Ohio River. The stations include data loggers and sensors with wireless data transmission to a cloud-based datacenter.

Monitoring matters

In order to track conditions around the dams, AMP Ohio officials sourced two NexSens 3100-iSIC data loggers. Each of these includes a solar panel for power and cellular modem for wireless data transmission to operators. The X2 data logger has superseded the iSIC since establishing these monitoring stations, but the original logger units remain operative as of 2023. NexSens engineers visit the site regularly for inspection, calibration and maintenance.

The pair of measurement stations are deployed upstream and downstream of the dam to monitor conditions on both sides. Deployment pipes mounted on the dam walls provide security and accessibility for sensor deployments. Each pipe holds a YSI optical dissolved oxygen sensor, which uses optical DO technology for improved performance and reduced maintenance. Integrated thermistors track Ohio River temperatures in addition to baseline dissolved oxygen. The sensors stores all calibration data internally so technicians can easily calibrate using a field computer during periodic maintenance visits.

Taken together, data from the two loggers are sent to project personnel in near real-time via 4G LTE cellular telemetry. They are then published to a private WQData LIVE web datacenter where managers can view them from anywhere via secure login on a web browser.

Willow Island Hydroelectric Plant Quick Facts

Original dam construction: 1967-1976
Hydroelectric plant construction: 2011-2016
Rated capacity: 44 MW
Annual output: 239 million kWh
Power recipients: 79 member communities in five states



X2 Environmental Data Logger (MAST-mounted)

The NexSens X2 Environmental Data Logger offers the latest in real-time monitoring technology with wireless communication, large plug-and-play sensor library, and ultra-low power consumption.

NexSens MAST Aluminum Mounting Pole

The MAST is a 2″ NPT aluminum pipe assembly for mounting an X2 data logger and SP-Series solar power pack for quick deployment.

YSI EXO3s Multi-Parameter Water Quality Sonde

The YSI EXO3s is a compact, batteryless sonde for monitoring major water quality parameters, including: pH, conductivity, temperature, turbidity and dissolved oxygen.

NexSens WQData LIVE Web Datacenter

WQData LIVE is a web-based project management service that allows users 24/7 instant access to data collected from remote telemetry systems.