- Front Porch
MERIDEN — Representatives from a Massachusetts-based hydro power company will present preliminary findings today about the possibility of operating a hydro power generating system at Hanover Dam.
New England Hydropower Company LLC identified Hanover Dam as one of several dams that could generate between 50 kilowatts and one megawatt of electricity.
“It looks like it fell in a nice place,” said Chris Conover, spokesman for the two-year-old company. “That dam came up looking good.”
Representatives from the company will address members of the Quinnipiac River Watershed Association and the general public at the QRWA headquarters at 6:30 p.m. and answer questions about the potential operation and its impact. The idea for the hydro generation plant originated with the city’s Energy Task Force whose members wondered if the dam would make for a viable project, said member Stephen Montemurro.
If approved, New England Hydropower would lease the dam from the city, collect and sell the power back to the city at a lower cost. New England Hydropower has spent the past two years studying thousands of dams in New England in the hopes of identifying municipal, state-owned or private dams that could work as small-scale hydropower generators, Conover said. They evaluated them based on height, quality of the dam and stream flow. Many of the dams are leftover from New England’s industrial age. Hanover Dam had been rebuilt and was in good shape.
It sought a preliminary permit to give New England Hydropower three years to gather information and obtain licenses, Conover said. It also has a letter of agreement with the city. Tuesday’s meeting is to answer questions, not a formal regulatory hearing, he said.
The state Department of Energy and Environmental Protection “is very interested,” Montemurro said. “All eyes are on us and how this project goes along.”
The plan would involve Archimedes Screw Generator technology, which has no emissions and unlike turbo systems does not harm or has low impact on fish. The screw is a slow speed rotor of up to 15 feet and spins at less than 40 revolutions per minute. The rotor sits in a trough or tube and takes in large blocks of water. Energy is extracted as water pushes through the spirals and is passed through a gearbox to the electrical generator housed in a power house at the top of the machine above the flood level.
New England Hydropower has partners in the United Kingdom and Holland who have developed 60 similar plants in those regions. The Archimedes Screw is now considered the top technology for small-scale generation, Conover said.
The Hanover Dam project is running neck and neck with a privately owned dam project in West Warwick, R.I.
“We’ve looked at a lot of sites,” Conover said. “They are really important projects and will make an impact on renewable energy.”
The city’s Planning Commission also recently approved a plan to place three acres of solar panels on its Evansville Avenue landfill. The plan would allow Greenskies Renewable Energy to collect and sell the energy back to Meriden over a 20-year span saving up to $2.3 million over the life of the deal.
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