By: Brad Kane
December 8, 2014
While solar panels fly up on rooftops and fuel cells are installed throughout Connecticut, another type of renewable energy generation is slowly gaining steam in the state.
Recent changes to state law governing renewable generation has increased interest in re-energizing old dams along Connecticut’s rivers and streams, with the potential to bring rundown and polluted properties back to productive use. The projects not only carry the potential to produce clean electricity but also leave the possibility for commercial and residential development along these waterfront properties, even though the projects can take significantly longer to complete than installing a solar array or a fuel cell.
Connecticut has at least 68 old dams along its rivers — most built in the 1800s or early 1900s to power mills — with the potential to be re-energized to produce 1 megawatt or more of electricity, according to the Hartford trade group Renewable Energy & Efficiency Business Association.
Berlin utility Connecticut Light & Power already has awarded six renewable energy credit contracts to dam re-energization projects, and legal changes that allow dam owners to sell their electricity to a bigger customer base has made the projects more economical.
“It is underutilized technology,” said Paul Michaud, REEBA’s executive director. “They were used to power old mills, but now they can be used to power the grid.”
Connecticut doesn’t allow for the construction of new dams for renewable-hydro energy, but state law says projects that use existing run-of-river dams are considered renewable. With changes in the law over the past two years, dam owners now can increase their output from 5 megawatts to 30 megawatts of electricity — enough to power 24,000 homes — and can sell that electricity directly to municipalities, instead of having to rely on the real-time market or landing long-term, power-purchase contracts with utilities. Click for full article.