NEAL P. GOSWAMI
BENNINGTON -- The Select Board gave approval Monday for town officials to negotiate a net metering agreement with the owner of a local hydroelectric project that is expected to come online next year.
William Scully, whose company AOE Inc. purchased the former Vermont Tissue Paper site, told the board he expects to receive final permits within a month to bring the former dam on the Walloomsac back online for the first time since 1958. He has been working for several years to obtain permits, playing a significant role with the Vermont Legislature to ensure that there is a process and permit structure for such projects.
Now, Scully is looking for partners to sell the renewable energy credits he will earn by generating power through the dam and putting it back on the grid. The U.S. Army Corps of Engineers has already signed off on the project, Scully said, and state and federal permits are imminent.
Scully said turbines that will be used to generate power have been purchased from a German company. The river site is unique because it has three separate channels. Scully said he designed his system to improve water quality and maintain fish habitats. Fishermen have long been opponents of bringing dams back online because they often disrupt habitats.
Scully said work is expected to begin by the end of the year. The turbines should be functional by late summer, he said. "This really will take, optimistically, eight months to get operational," he said.
Select Board Chairman Joseph L. Krawczyk Jr., a former state legislator and member of the House Natural Resources Committee, credited Scully for his relentless work on the project. "Bill has been successful where people before him have not been," Krawczyk said.
Scully said the dam would likely be the second to come online in the last 30 years. He asked the town to take part in a net metering group, that will also likely include Bennington College. That means the town would "purchase" the power that the dam creates. The town would not save money on electricity, however. "Basically, it's a wash. You're supporting renewable energy," Scully said.
Krawczyk said the town plan calls for Bennington to move toward renewable energy. According to Town Manager Stuart A. Hurd, the town could conceivably use all renewable energy between the dam and a proposed solar facility.