2 Mon River Dams Could Get Hydropower

Mass. company files for license, eyes 2014 to begin construction

Morgantown Dominion Post
19 November 2011
By Alex Lang
The buzz of electricity could someday be heard at the Morgantown Lock & Dam.

A Massachusetts-based company, Free Flow Power, filed documents this week with the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission to possibly bring hydropower to the Morgantown Lock & Dam and the Opekiska Lock & Dam.

Both dams are on the Monongahela River.

Jon Guidroz, director of project development with Free Flow Power, said the earliest the license could be approved is the end of 2013, so construction couldn’t start until 2014.

Neither dam has hydropower generators, said Jeff Benedict, with the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers Pittsburgh District.

The projects will be conventional hydropower and will use a turbine generator in a low-profile powerhouse to create the electricity, according to the filings. Each project will construct a new control building on available land near each dam and will have a substation next to the control building.

There will also be overhead transmission lines that will connect to the local utility distribution lines.

The transmission lines will be no larger than a line people would see on a telephone pole outside of their house, Guidroz said. It’s too early in the process to say whether the electricity would stay local.

Guidroz said the planning for the hydropower project is still in the early stages.

The Morgantown hydropower station would generate enough power to provide electricity for 2,100 typical homes each month, Guidroz said.

But the project is pretty small in scale when compared to other hydropower-producing dams. Guidroz said the Morgantown dam will produce 2.5 megawatts of electricity. The Hoover Dam produces 1,345.

The company said so far it hasn’t seen much debate about the plan.

“Free Flow Power has engaged in outreach throughout 2011 regarding the projects and has encountered minimal controversy at this time,” the company wrote in its filing.

It did note that additional information will be needed to fully evaluate the potential project effects. The company wrote that its approach to project design is to promote compatibility with the existing environment.

There are 77,000 dams with the potential to have hydropower, Guidroz said. Free Flow Power looks at many of them and tries to see which ones could have hydropower with a low impact.