Pittsfield NH dam repowering project

Thursday, May 24, 2012

As governments and businesses consider the hydroelectric potential of existing non-powered dams, competition is heating up to claim and evaluate the best sites.  Federal regulators yesterday resolved a conflict between two developers by awarding a preliminary permit to a developer interested in studying the feasibility of repowering or rebuilding hydroelectric energy production at an existing mill dam on the Suncook River in Pittsfield, New Hampshire.

Another former mill dam in the heart of a New England village: the Doughty Dam in North Berwick, Maine.

Yesterday's order by the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission (9-page PDF) granted a preliminary permit to KC Hydro LLC of New Hampshire to study the feasibility of the Pittsfield Mill Dam Hydropower Project.  Originally built for industrial purposes, the Pittsfield Mill Dam is currently owned by the New Hampshire Department of Environmental Services.

As described in KC Hydro's original permit application (11-page PDF), the project concept involved either restoring an existing but mothballed 415 kW turbine which previously operated under an exemption from licensing, or installing entirely new facilities (potentially with a 530 kW capacity) to capture the hydroelectric potential of the water already impounded behind the dam.

After KC Hydro submitted its preliminary permit, another developer - AMENICO Green Solutions, LLC - applied for a competing preliminary permit for the same site.  AMENICO proposed a similar project, which focused on restoring the existing 415 kW turbine.  AMENICO noted that it had property rights to the site, which it claimed KC Hydro did not.

Noting that the applications were comparable, FERC recited its standard for resolving the competing claims:
Staff has reviewed the applications and found no basis for concluding that either applicant’s plan is superior to the other. Neither applicant has presented a plan based on detailed studies or the results of agency consultation. Where the plans of the applicants are equally well adapted to develop, conserve, and utilize in the public interest the water resources of the region, the Commission will favor the applicant with the earliest application acceptance date.
Because KC Hydro had applied first, FERC awarded the preliminary permit to KC Hydro.  In doing so, FERC noted that a permit applicant is not required to have obtained all access rights to a project site as a condition of receiving a preliminary permit.  However, FERC did note that a preliminary permit does not grant a right of entry onto any lands, so a permittee must obtain any necessary authorizations and comply with any applicable laws and regulations to conduct any field studies.

With its preliminary permit in hand, KC Hydro now has 3 years to investigate the site and apply for a full project license.  Will the Pittsfield dam ultimately be repowered?

1 comment:

Jon Beckwith said...

I would love to see this dam utilized. It is a great centerpiece to a town that is badly in need of a catalyst to help develop the downtown area. AMENICO and Rustic Crust are hopefully starting a trend of businesses to occupy the area and by providing a local energy source perhaps more green businesses will choose Pittsfield as their home.

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