MERIDEN — Meriden has made history as the first city in the United States to install the technology of ancient Greek scientist Archimedes to transform a dam into a hydroelectric generator. The 20-ton, 35-foot-long steel screw lifted by crane into the Hanover Pond dam Tuesday morning will generate about 900,000 kilowatts of electricity annually and is expected to save the city $20,000 a year when it starts producing power.
“It is renewable energy, zero emissions, using a water resource that used to drive all our industry in New England 100 years ago,” said New England Hydropower CEO Michael Kerr.
The Archimedes screw was invented over 2,000 years ago and has been used in European dams for the last decade.
The screw alone cost about $750,000 and was manufactured in Holland, Kerr said. It was stored in New London before being transported by tractor-trailer Monday night to Meriden, where it had some trouble maneuvering South Meriden’s narrow roads before reaching its destination at Hanover Pond off Webb Street. After several hours of preparation work Tuesday morning, crews attached the metal screw to a massive crane and steadily lifted it into the air. Less than 20 minutes later, it was lowered into the dam.
“It executed perfectly,” Kerr said. “Everything lifted perfectly.”
Electricity will be generated when water at the top of the dam is sent through the screw, causing it to rotate at about 30 revolutions a minute.
Fish and other aquatic animals can travel safely through the dam.
“The fish are going in at the same speed and going out at the same speed without pressure and without pinch points, just moving down in big tanks of water,” Kerr said. “It’s kind of like Six Flags for fish.”
After additional site work is completed, Kerr estimated, the dam will begin producing power in the spring.
Mayor Kevin Scarpati said the hydroelectric project’s value goes beyond the money the city will save on energy costs.
“For Meriden to be the first city in the nation to install something like this, I think is going to be a model for not only the state but for others to come and see how efficient and effective the screw is going to be at generating power,” Scarpati said. “It’s a measure of savings, but above that also help put Meriden on the map in a positive way.”
Kerr praised city officials for their participation in the project.
“Meriden’s attitude and support has been extraordinary right from the onset,” Kerr said. “Everything takes longer than you think, but they’ve been with us the whole way.”
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