Company Eyes Mon for Power Plants

Washington PA  Observer Reporter
4 February 2012
By Bob Niedbala, Staff writer

A company headquartered in Boston, Mass., is investigating building hydroelectric plants on six locks and dams on the Monongahela River.

Free Flow Power, a renewable energy company focused on hydroelectric power, has received preliminary permits to investigate plants on four dams on the Mon in Pennsylvania and two in West Virginia.

Free Flow Power will hold a public meeting on the four projects in Pennsylvania Feb. 23 at Hampton Inn, 1525 Broad Avenue Extension, Belle Vernon. The 1 p.m. hearing will focus on hydroelectric plants proposed to be built at the Point Marion, Grays Landing, Maxwell and Charleroi locks and dams.

The two projects proposed by the company in West Virginia are at the Opekiska and the Morgantown locks and dams.

Jon Guidroz, the company's director of project development, said preliminary permits were issued for the six projects by the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission last February or March.

The company also recently filed pre-applications for the projects with FERC, triggering the requirement of the public hearing, he said.

The company proposes developing plants that have "minimal impact" on the dams, Guidroz said. The four Pennsylvania plants would produce power ranging from 6.6 to 15.4 megawatts.

Preliminary permits issued by FERC give the company exclusive rights for three years to study development of plants at the locks and dams.

The permits do not authorize the company to proceed with construction of a plant. If the company, after completing its review, intends to proceed with a project, it will have to file a license application with FERC, which is a much more extensive process.

Dan Jones, spokesman for the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers, said anytime a company proposes a hydroelectric project for any of the corps' locks and dams, an environmental review and a review of the impact on the lock and dam must be completed.

There are currently proposals for similar hydro projects on all of the Pittsburgh district's locks and dams except for Lock and Dam 3 in Elizabeth and a few on the Allegheny River where hydroelectric plants already exist, Jones said.