May 24, 2010 - new hydro at old dam in Maine?

Monday, May 24, 2010

A quick look today at a situation taking place at the New Mills dam on Cobbosseecontee Stream in Gardiner, Maine. This small, older non-hydro dam is owned by the municipalities of Gardiner, Litchfield and Richmond. The Gardiner Water District also owns a pump station and associated equipment located at the dam. I wrote about repairs to the New Mills dam last month, which were needed due to ice damage from the past season.

Now, a company called Osprey l LLC has filed a petition with the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission seeking a permit to study the feasibility of a hydroelectric project at the dam. Curiously, Osprey's contact information and address in Woolich is congruent with that of Reed & Reed Inc., a general contracting company. Indeed, Osprey has been described as a wholly-owned subsidiary of Phoenix Renewable Energy, which is an affiliate of Reed & Reed.

So what is Osprey proposing? The proposed project would consist of “an existing 12-foot-high, 91-foot-wide concrete dam with a 58-foot-wide spillway; an existing 140-acre reservoir; an existing powerhouse penstock and outlet structure; new turbine generator units with a total installed capacity of 250 kilowatts; a new transmission line connecting to an existing Central Maine Power distribution line located 3,000 feet downstream of the dam; and appurtenant facilities.” Osprey's application suggests that the project could produce an estimated average annual generation of about 1,300 megawatt-hours.

The municipal dam owners considered a power project in the past year, but ultimately decided that the costs were too high.

Downstream from New Mills, Kruger Energy operates a hydroelectric dam, which it acquired along with other hydroelectric facilities of Ridgewood Maine Hydro Partners LP last November.

The applicant's contact information also overlaps that of another application filed with FERC on April 15 to study the feasibility of a 5,000 megawatt-hour hydroelectric project on the Morgan Dam, on the Sebasticook River in Hartland.

Is this the vanguard of a renaissance of small hydro? Historically, many municipalities owned small dams. Will take-overs of suitable sites by private companies be the next wave of small hydro?

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