Work on Pownal hydro project could begin this summer


POWNAL >> The developer aiming to revive the former Pownal Tanning Co. hydro-electric dam says construction could start this summer.

A new turbine at the dam along the Hoosic River would generate an estimated 1,800,000 kilowatt hours of electricity a year, according to developer Bill Scully of North Bennington. In addition to bringing the dam back online, the project also includes cleaning up PCB contamination in sediment behind the dam, he said.

Scully said he is completing the project's financing and will soon select an equipment manufacture and contractor and aims to go to construction in July. Talks regarding a lease agreement between Hoosic Hydro and the town, which owns the dam, are ongoing.

Hoosic Hydro LLC had applied for a "non material amendment" from the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission (FERC), requesting the system's capacity be increased from 400 kilowatts to 500 kilowatts. FERC, the federal agency that regulated electricity sales as well as hydroelectric licensing, granted that order on Friday. It's one of many steps the project has had to take in the past three-and-a-half years, Scully said.

The dam on the Hoosic River near Dean Road has been inactive since the former tannery shuttered in 1988.

The existing dam was built in 1907, but the operation was first constructed in 1866 by the North Pownal Manufacturing Co., owned by A.C. Houghton and Co., before the site became the tannery in 1935.

The town took "involuntary ownership" of it in 2002 for non-payment of taxes. Different developers have looked at bringing the dam back online. Scully and Dennis Candelora, of Pownal, first approached the Select Board about leasing the dam in 2012.


Since then, Scully and his partners brought a hydroelectric operation online at the former Vermont Tissue Mill on the Walloomsac River in North Bennington. The multi-year, $2.5 million project began producing electricity last fall.

"The biggest change is that we will be replacing the original turbine and generator with more modern equipment," Scully said of the Pownal project.

The proposal calls for maintaining the existing concrete dam, which stretches 153 feet long and 18 feet high.

A new, computer controlled system will end up using slightly less water to generate 20 percent more electricity.

The original, non-operational horizontal-double turbine manufactured by Rodney Hunt in 1937, which has a 400 kilowatt generator, would be removed. It would be replaced with a double regulated kaplan generator, manufactured by Wasserkraft, with a 500 kw generator.

The new turbine unit would produce the same amount of horsepower as the old unit — 700 horsepower — and use

Scully said, given the constant flow of the river, the project would operate at full capacity 82 percent of the time. A similarly sized solar array of 500 kw would only do that 17 percent of the time, he said.

— Contact Edward Damon at 413-770-6979


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