By George Harvey
Headed by Lori Barg, Community Hydro focuses on hydro-power in New England. While the company has produced a fair amount of information on hydro, analyzing data and issuing reports on resources available in the area, it has developed some hands-on expertise.
The latest big splash is in Antrim, New Hampshire, where it has redeveloped a site of its own. After using a bit of capital to buy an existing site that was not producing any power, the team invested sweat equity to get the dam back into operation generating power, and online. This happened in January of this year.
The Steels Pond Hydro dam in Antrim, New Hampshire will ultimately generate 900 kilowatts (kW) of power. For now, it is capable of delivering 300 kW; turbines for the remaining 600 kW have not yet been installed. The developers are looking to deliver three million kilowatt-hours per year, or more.
Now, they are looking for buyers of the power they produce. Readers of Green Energy Times can refer to their advertisement on page 15. They would prefer to sell to schools, municipalities, nonprofits, or other organizations of similar size. Their hope is to enter into a group-net-metering contract with one or more customers of Public Service of New Hampshire. Under a long-term contract, a producer can benefit from getting a price above wholesale, and the customer benefits from getting a price below retail. Their hope is to have the contract by April.
The Steels Pond Hydro dam was one of hundreds of dams in New England that are not producing power. In most cases, the permitting is the single largest hurdle to having a hydro-electric facility operating where there is none today.
Lori Barg has authored a number of articles on small-scale hydro projects that can be developed in the area. She has been at this for a long time, and the materials she has produced are, in some cases, several years old. We should point out, however, that nearly all of the information provided is just as relevant today as it was when it was written. The hundreds of dams are mostly in good shape, ready for refurbishment with new generating equipment.
Currently, Lori is developing affordable equipment. What is innovative is that this equipment can arrive on the back of a truck, and be installed, with only minor civil works, hardly a shovel in the ground. There are over 75,000 unpowered dams in the country. Community Hydro hopes that with affordable equipment,and a change in permitting, to power 10,000 of the 75,000 unpowered dams in the country. Most of these dams are here to stay because they provide water supply, recreation, fish and wildlife habitat, flood control etc. The installation of affordable hydro-power at these sites can help ensure that these resources are maintained.
Indeed, on January 21, the US Department of Energy announced it would provide incentives for establishing power generating at existing dams, at 2.3¢ per kWh. Their estimate of the total nationwide output of the hydro facilities that could come online under the program is 12,000,000 kW. This is the output of about twelve nuclear power plants, and the dams can run nonstop. The amounts of power we are considering here are far from trivial.
The question of small hydro-power is becoming more clearly important to lawmakers of both political parties. When the US Congress took up a law on what is called a Federal Energy Regulatory Commission “conduit exemption,” which provides for very much simplified permitting for getting power from water going through existing conduits (irrigation, municipal water supply, etc.) the result was bipartisan legislation of a type not often seen today. The bill passed unanimously. This is a great precedent, and we hope it is a small step to get similar legislation to simplify permitting to power or re-power existing dams.
One thing that we might predict about hydro-power of all sorts is that we will have more about it in future editions of Green Energy Times.