NEWS & EVENTS

WESTERN PA.'S RIVERS AN 'UNTAPPED RESOURCE,' BOSTON COMPANY SAYS

Melissa Daniels, mdaniels@tribweb.com - Pittsburgh Tribune-Review

Read Western Pa.'s rivers an 'untapped resource,' Boston company says article on triblive.com

 A Boston company is seeking approval to build 10 hydroelectric power stations on the Allegheny, Ohio and Monongahela rivers.

Tom Feldman, Free Flow Power's vice president of project development, said his company targeted Western Pennsylvania about three years ago. After it completes environmental and engineering studies, the company will submit final license applications to the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission. On Feb. 7, Free Flow submitted its first application, which seeks a license to build a power plant at Allegheny Lock and Dam No. 2, owned by the Army Corps of Engineers, downstream from the Highland Park Bridge. “Our thesis is that there's an untapped resource,” Feldman said. “There's economic development opportunities for the local community associated with building what will be a very long-lived asset that will deliver a lot of renewable energy for several generations.”

The low-impact facilities would produce five to 40 megawatts of power. A 10-megawatt facility, Feldman said, can provide enough energy to power about 4,600 homes a year. But residential power isn't the goal. If Free Flow builds the plant, it would sell the power to utilities or directly to industrial and commercial customers. Construction for the plant near the Highland Park Bridge would cost about $82 million. Feldman said the company is not seeking tax credits or grants. Once built, the plants' operating costs would be low, given there is no need to purchase fuel, Feldman said, and the appeal is high for commercial customers that can lock in long-term rates.

Although Free Flow has studied the area and its possibilities for years, the approval process for construction is lengthy. By December, the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission will issue an environmental analysis of the Highland Park application. It also could open a public comment period before issuing the license. The Army Corps and Pennsylvania would require additional permits. Feldman said the goal is to begin construction in 2017 or 2018. Jeff Benedict, hydropower coordinator with the Army Corps, said hydroelectric power facilities were built along Western Pennsylvania rivers in the 1980s. Benedict said power facilities don't change the operation of the lock and dam. “They operate based on flows that would typically come out of a lock and dam,” he said.

This week, FirstEnergy Corp., the parent company of West Penn Power, sold three hydropower facilities at locks and dams in Warren, Schenley and Ford City as part of a $395 million deal with Harbor Hydro Holdings. Collectively, the 11 facilities in the deal have a capacity of 527 megawatts. Jim McCarville, executive director of the Port of Pittsburgh Commission, said his organization encourages power-generating facilities as long as they don't disrupt navigation of the river. “We think these are good ideas,” he said. “We've got a great resource here, with these locks and dams.”

For more information or media related inquiries please contact:

Tom Feldman

Vice President of Regulatory Affairs

Office: (978) 252-7361

Email: tfeldman@free-flow-power.com

INDIANA'S WILLIAMS DAM COULD POWER UP AGAIN

John Russell, john.russell@indystar.com - Indianapolis Star

Read 'Indiana's Williams Dam could power up again' on indystar.com

With its gentle current and miles of shallow water, the White River is no one's idea of a mighty waterway. But in this small Southern Indiana town, the White River just might get a high-powered job.

A Boston start-up company wants to harness the power of thousands of gallons of water spilling every minute over a 17-foot-high dam and put that energy to good use. Free Flow Power Corp. plans to spend $12 million to install four turbines on the Williams Dam, a century-old concrete embankment that straddles the East Fork of the White River.

The company says the project could generate enough electricity to power about 2,500 homes. "This isn't the Hoover Dam we're talking about," said Thomas Feldman, vice president of project development for Free Flow Power. "But this is exactly the type and size of project that we target." Even with its modest size, the Williams Dam project represents an ambitious goal, producing renewable energy in this quiet, rough-around-the-edges rural area. The dam, now used mostly as a public fishing area, is surrounded by neglected buildings, mobile homes and nondescript houses. The nearest city, Bedford, is 20 minutes away, down a winding, hilly country road.

But Free Flow Power says it has spent three years exploring small dams all over the country for this kind of project, and has a list of 50 more it wants to develop, including four more around Indiana. In an age of green energy, this project could lead the way for a wave of similar hydroelectric proposals around the country. But whether the company can pull it off is far from clear. It has yet to get an operating license from the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission, although it says it expects to obtain one in early 2014. In addition, Free Flow Power has no track record of completing hydroelectric projects, and says that Williams Dam would be its first.

The company, founded in 2007, has had fits and starts over the years. Earlier this year, it abandoned plans for hydropower plants on the Mississippi River, after using a $1.4 million grant from the U.S. Department of Energy to test a proprietary technology. In a letter to the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission in June, Free Flow Power  said that pursuing those projects was not viable. Feldman, the company vice president, said the Mississippi River project ran into a combination of technical and regulatory hurdles that were insurmountable, and made financing difficult. He said Williams Dam is a simpler type of project. It uses a conventional hydropower technology that is used all across the country.

The eight-year-old company has raised millions of dollars in venture capital, and has spent more than $500,000 to do research and engineering studies at Williams Dam. The project has the support of state and local officials here. Several environmental groups are giving the project tentative approval, even though they want to see more details. Gov. Pence's office of energy development said it supports hydroelectric power as a part of Indiana's long-term energy policy. "We need a diverse energy portfolio, which includes coal, gas, methane, wind, solar, nuclear and hydroelectric, in order to power our economy," said Tristan Vance, the office's director, in a statement.

Finding Williams Dam is no easy feat for outsiders. It is located in a remote part of Lawrence County, near the Martin State Forest, about 80 miles southwest of Indianapolis. The structure was originally built as a hydroelectric dam in 1913. It generated power for about four decades before being decommissioned in the 1950s. The powerhouse, which sits on the north side of the dam, is empty. Still, water continues to rush over the 17-feet dam, and thousands of people visit the area every year to boat and fish. A caution sign upstream warns boaters to stay away from the falls.

Free Flow Power said it will leave the area surrounding the dam available for fishing and boating. The project does not call for additional flooding or damming. Instead, it will use a "run-of-river" design. River water will be channeled into the powerhouse and through four hydropower turbines, spinning propeller mechanisms to a generator to produce about 4 megawatts of electricity. The water will then leave the power house and connect back with the river. Free Flow Power said it is in discussions with local utilities to purchase the electricity. The dam is just a few hundred feet from a utility connection point.

Some environmental groups say the project sounds interesting, but they want to hear more details. The Hoosier Environmental Council said the area near the dam is a habitat to several endangered species, including the Indiana bat and several varieties of mussels. "We want to be cautious in giving a full-throttled endorsement," said Jesse Kharbanda, executive director of the Hoosier Environmental Council. "We want to review the studies and take a close look."

Clarke Kahlo, project director of Protect Our Rivers Now, said streams should remain free flowing, and dams often upset aquatic life. But because  this dam has been in place for more than a century, he said his group would not oppose the project. "Assuming the environmental impact is negligible, it's probably a viable idea," Kahlo said. Citizens Action Coalition of Indiana, a grassroots group that opposes coal-fired power plants and other fossil fuels, said that "run-of-river" hydroelectric plants are gaining in popularity because they use flowing water, a renewable resource. "Adding new renewable sources of energy that are carbon- and emission-free is a step in the right direction," said Kerwin Olson, the group's executive director.

Free Flow Power  said it found Williams Dam on a national inventory. The structure seemed perfect for such a project, with between 10 and 20 feet of height, a decent water flow and a history of producing electricity. "There are 80,000 dams across the United States, and less than 5 percent are producing power," Feldman said. "So there's a massive amount of untapped resources available right in our back yard."

For more information or media related inquiries please contact:

Tom Feldman

Vice President of Regulatory Affairs

Office: (978) 252-7361

Email: tfeldman@free-flow-power.com

COMPANIES SEE NEW ENERGY POTENTIAL IN OLD HYDRO DAMS

Kari Lydersen, MidWest Energy News

Read 'Companies see new energy potential in old hydro dams' on midwestenergynews.com

Century-old dusky photos show the herculean effort made to construct the Williams Dam on the White River in southern Indiana. The building of scaffolds, the digging of pits, the pouring of concrete, created an impressive structure that began to take shape in 1910, was swamped by floodwaters in 1913 and generated electricity until the turbines were shut down in the 1950s.

Now the Boston company Free Flow Power says it is close to reopening a hydropower plant at the dam, part of a nascent resurgence of hydropower in the Midwest. The overhaul will cost about $12 million and be capable of generating 4 MW, the company says. The plant would sell power through long-term purchase agreements or on the wholesale market, said Free Flow vice president Tom Feldman.

Feldman said the plant’s power could be competitive with the power sold from nuclear and natural gas plants in the region, and it could help Indiana or other states meet their renewable energy standards since hydropower qualifies as a renewable energy source. The price of electricity generated at the Williams dam “would not be a significant premium compared to the current wholesale market,” Feldman said. “There’s going to be a change between the prevailing wholesale price for power now and in 2016. The key takeaway from our perspective and what we’ve heard from other entities is that hydropower is cost-competitive,” he said. “In the grand scheme of things it is a small part of the energy mix – it’s not going to displace coal or natural gas – so we’re looking to identify sites where hydropower can be a component of the energy mix.”

Issues with variability

The restarted hydropower plant will be a “run-of-river” operation, meaning that they won’t change the amount of water pooled above the dam but will go with the flow that will vary depending on season and weather. The unpredictability of varying flows is not an ideal situation for power distribution and sale – solar and wind face similar challenges. But Feldman said that based on 30 years of flow data measured on site at the dam, the company is able to offer dependable estimates to potential electricity buyers and investors.

Bolstering hydropower could be a growing trend in the Midwest, where hydropower makes up just a fraction of the regional power supply – from a tenth of a percent in Illinois to about three percent in Wisconsin, according to the National Hydropower Association.

Recently the Milwaukee Journal-Sentinel reported that Wisconsin-based Renewable World Resources is refurbishing archaic Midwest dams to greatly increase their power generation, including a $2.3 million investment to double the output of the Cataract dam in Michigan’s Upper Peninsula. Renewable World Resource’s dams, like Free Flow’s, are run-of-river setups. Feldman said there are 80,000 dams nationwide that are not generating electricity but in many cases could be. Most are owned by state governments or the Army Corps of Engineers.

‘Tremendous untapped resource’

The Williams dam, which is owned by the Indiana Department of Natural Resources, is the furthest along of about 50 government-owned dams where Free Flow is looking to install hydropower operations. The 20 other projects they consider in advanced stages of development include six on the Muskingum River in Ohio.

“There’s a tremendous untapped existing resource out there – what Free Flow is trying to do is make beneficial use of existing infrastructure with minimal impact on the community,” said Feldman. He said the company has been working with neighbors and other stakeholders for several years to hear and address concerns. He added that Free Flow is trying to create a “win-win situation” in part by building a new ADA-compliant fishing platform above the dam, which is already a popular fishing spot – even hosting events for the Indiana Catfish Association. The company says the new plant will create 25 construction jobs and two highly-skilled permanent jobs.

Free Flow expects to get their license from the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission (FERC) in early 2014, after about three years working with the commission on licensing issues. They hope to secure power purchase agreements and start operation by mid-2016. The department of natural resources will continue to own the actual dam, and through a lease arrangement Free Flow will own and operate the hydropower plant.

Feldman said the company is hoping to enter a bilateral purchase agreement where one entity buys power from the dam — an ideal candidate would be the Crane Naval Base nearby. Selling to utilities or rural electric cooperatives – in or out of the state — would also be possible. Feldman said they much prefer to deal with in-state customers. “We are committed to seeing this through to commercial operation,” said Feldman. “And looking forward to working with IDNR to execute a lease agreement that ensures there’s hydropower producing emission free electricity for generations.”

For more information or media related inquiries please contact:

Tom Feldman

Vice President of Regulatory Affairs

Office: (978) 252-7361

Email: tfeldman@free-flow-power.com

DAM NEAR BEDFORD TO PRODUCE HYDROELECTRIC POWER AGAIN

Jashin Lin, Indianapublicmedia.org

Read 'Dam Near Bedford to Produce Hydroelectric Power Again' on indianapublicmedia.org

Renewable energy company Free Flow Power Corp. announced Thursday plans to invest $12 million to transform a state-owned dam in Lawrence County into a 4-megawatt hydroelectric power facility. The dam in Williams, Indiana, was originally hydroelectric before being decommissioned in the 1950s. Since then it’s played a part in maintaining the water supplies for the communities surrounding the White River but concerns about its structural integrity led to questions of decommissioning it for good in 2008.

“We spent three years talking to stakeholders, finding out what their concerns were, finding out what we should study,” says Tom Feldman, vice president of project development for Free Flow Power. The company began studying the dam in 2010 as one of its projects to transform existing state-owned and Army Corp of Engineers-owned dams in the U.S. “We don’t view any of the results of those studies to present insurmountable obstacles,” he added. Feldman anticipates the dam will come online on 2016 — that is, start generating electricity.  He says the company hopes to sell power to local utilities and possibly nearby Crane Naval Base.

One of the potential customers in 2016 is the town of Bedford, about 10 miles away. Mayor Shawna Girgis says the project will also ensure that the dam remains intact and in commission in its role in Bedford’s drinking water supply. “It shows that our community is supportive of a pretty progressive, cutting-edge project. So I think that gives us future opportunities in the area of energy,” Girgis says.

For more information or media related inquiries please contact:

Tom Feldman

Vice President of Regulatory Affairs

Office: (978) 252-7361

Email: tfeldman@free-flow-power.com

A POWERFUL URGE EXISTS TO TAP RIVERS FOR ENERGY

Brian O'Neill, Pittsburgh Post-Gazette

Read 'A powerful urge to tap rivers for energy' on post-gazette.com

In this city defined by its three rivers, each one punctuated by dams, you'd  think Pittsburgh long ago would have figured a way to get some juice from the  flow. Both the city and Allegheny County were licensed to generate hydroelectric  power from existing dams on the Allegheny and Ohio rivers in the 1980s. Bundles  of tax dollars were spent on plans and license fees. All that money was  essentially flushed down the river. Nothing was built.

Now comes a Boston company, Free Flow Power, to tap into this neglected  resource. It's been looking at our rivers for almost three years and claims to  have spent $4 million conducting environmental and engineering studies, using  Western Pennsylvania companies. The goal is the generation of electrical power  from as many as 10 existing dams from Beaver County to Morgantown, W.Va., within  the next five years.

We may be talking about only a drop in the energy bucket. The dams would  average less than 15 megawatts apiece, and each megawatt can power hundreds, not  thousands, of homes. That may not seem like much of a jolt in the midst of the  Marcellus Shale natural gas boom, whose boosters claim, "If the Marcellus were a  country it would rank fifth in world gas production -- ahead of Qatar.''

Yet harnessing energy from the water has a compelling purity. That water  would flow over the dams in the same way it does now. The U.S. Army Corps of  Engineers, which maintains them, will not make any additional releases to  provide hydropower. Free Flow Power can only use what slops over. The corps will  continue making its dam decisions based on its missions of maintaining navigable  waterways, mitigating floods and so on. "They're using flows we'd use anyway,'' corps spokesman Jeff Benedict said of  the proposals. The corps can operate the dams the same way, whether or not there's a  concrete powerhouse at the opposite end from the locks. The only difference  would be that the electricity to operate the dam would be paid for by Free Flow  Power, a welcome dividend for a strapped federal government.

Tom Feldman, vice president of project development for Free Flow Power, met  me Friday morning before he was to make a presentation to the Pennsylvania  Environmental Council. I'd wondered how, with Marcellus gas putting a dent in  coal and nuclear power plans, a new player could enter the energy field. "There's always going to be a place for hydropower,'' Mr. Feldman said. Indeed, four hydropower operations are on the upper Allegheny River already,  though the closest is in Schenley, Armstrong County. Uncle Sam would like to see  more.

Congress passed a bill, signed by President Barack Obama last summer, that  streamlines the regulatory process for hydro, "the largest source of clean,  renewable electricity in the United States.'' But navigating the federal  agencies is still trickier than getting a coal barge up and down the rivers. Mr.  Feldman all but beamed when he said the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission had  received FFP's license application last month after nearly three years of  studying the feasibility of hydro power on our rivers.

For George Tkach, that's bittersweet news. Twenty-five years ago, Mr. Tkach  was in the Allegheny County administration that looked into hydropower. Fifteen  years ago, as mayor of Rankin, he offered this newspaper his four top desires  for Pittsburgh: a riverfront development district; a bike trail to Washington,  D.C.; the naming of Allegheny River bridges in honor of prominent Pittsburghers;  and hydropower on the rivers. You could say he's four-for-four, but he wanted the governments to reap the  hydro revenue so they could use it to finance the massive job of modernizing the  storm sewers, so "the rivers could actually clean themselves up,'' as he put  it.

I drove Mr. Tkach to Allegheny Lock and Dam No. 2, just downriver from the  Highland Park Bridge, where the city once had a license to build a power plant.  It's in FFP's plans now. Pittsburgh Water and Sewer Authority officials have  been in touch with Free Flow Power, but the PWSA would be a potential customer,  not the operator. "If nothing else,'' Mr. Tkach said, "it's going to reduce the dependency on  fossil fuel." Go with the flow, Mr. Tkach. This beats letting all that dam power go to  waste.

For more information or media related inquiries please contact:

Tom Feldman

Vice President of Regulatory Affairs

Office: (978) 252-7361

Email: tfeldman@free-flow-power.com

HYDRO RENAISSANCE? CALL IT A COMEBACK

Anya Litvak, Pittsburgh Business Times

Read 'Hydro renaissance? Call it a comeback' on bizjournals.com

Have you seen the water in Armstrong County lately? Looks historic, doesn’t it? That’s the glow of the first hydroelectric project nearing construction in this area in more than two decades.

Enduring Hydro LLC, a Maryland company, is gearing up to start building a 6-megawatt hydro plant on the Mahoning Creek Dam. It’s not a large project and it’s by no means the beginning of a tidal wave of hydro development here. (Or is it?) But can you blame Daniel Lissner, general counsel for Free Flow Power, for being excited? Last year, Lissner’s company bought more than half a dozen permits to develop hydroelectric projects in this region and it’s moving along the same permitting process that took the Mahoning Creek project 8 years to materialize. “Our objection is to file final license applications by the beginning of 2014,” he said.

Between now and then, Free Flow Power will do oodles of studies, for which it’s currently seeking vendors. This includes seven figures worth of water monitoring efforts, surveys of habitats, cultural and recreational resources. Lissner admits that one project in 20 years does not a renaissance make, but here’s his case for why hydro power is about to experience one anyway:

1. Since 2005, hydro power has qualified for renewable tax credits, including the production tax credit most closely associated with wind, which has been extended to projects beginning construction before the end of 2013. Lissner thinks there will be a wave of water power efforts aiming to meet that deadline.

2. The price of gas (a competing fuel) is low and demand for electricity is still down (thanks to the recession and energy management advances). But this is exactly the right time to invest in hydro, he argues. It’s a large upfront capital cost, sure, but once built, hydro power assets are nearly pure profit. No fuel, little maintenance, little labor expense. And no one believes gas will stay low forever, right? Plus, look how good interest rates are today, he said.

“Folks are going to look back at this period in time and recognize that developers’ interest in this area was really sound investment,” he said.

For more information or media related inquiries please contact:

Tom Feldman

Vice President of Regulatory Affairs

Office: (978) 252-7361

Email: tfeldman@free-flow-power.com

 

HYDRO POWER BIG LOCALLY

Sam Shawver, The Marietta Times

Read 'Hydro power big locally' on newsandsentinel.com

MARIETTA - A Boston-based company is pursuing the installation of hydroelectric facilities on seven dams on the Muskingum River.

Free Flow Power applied to the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission in November to operate seven low-head units that would generate 22 megawatts of electricity, enough to power about 19,000 homes. "Head" is a measure of the pressure of falling water used for hydroelectric power generation. The higher the head, the more available power. Muskingum River dams are classified as "low head."

The applications starts a process allowing the commission to begin an environmental assessment of the project, Daniel Lissner, general counsel and spokesman for Free Flow Power. "But that's just in the beginning stages," Lissner said. The assessment procedure will include at least one public meeting to be scheduled later this year that will provide an opportunity for people to learn more about the project and identify issues, if any, that may need to be addressed at that time, he said. "(The commission) has issued a schedule that includes results from completion of the environmental assessment in early 2014," Lissner added. "We're hoping that a license to begin the project will come soon after."

Free Flow may try to expedite the project because of significant federal tax credits that could be obtained if work on the hydro power initiative begins this year, Lissner said. "We're exploring whether that could be a possibility as we pursue the licensing and continue to work with the state department of natural resources on leasing of facilities and any land required around the dams for our operations," Lissner said.

All seven dams are owned by the Ohio Department of Natural Resources, which oversees the Muskingum River Parkway.Concerns about the proposed hydro power project have been aired by Friends of the Lower Muskingum. "We want to make sure that water will continue to flow over the dams after these facilities are installed," said Marilyn Ortt, a member of the Lower Muskingum group. During initial public meetings about the project in early 2011, Ortt said members were "taken aback to learn that if this project is implemented, there will be no water going over the dams for about half of each year."

The river would be routed through turbines instead of over the dams, and at low water times of the year there could be no flow at all, which would impact oxygenation of the water vital to supporting fish and other aquatic life, Ortt said. Other concerns included how the plants might affect boating and other recreational use of the river. "We would have to look at the licensing applications to see if those concerns were covered," Ortt said.

The concerns are important and are receiving Free Flow's full attention, Lissner said. "We've had conversations with Friends of the Lower Muskingum, and have provided them with copies of our license applications," he said. "All of the dams will operate in what's called a 'run of river' mode, using available water as it flows over the dams to operate the turbines." Continuous flow over the dams would be maintained for aesthetic purposes and to enhance aquatic habitat, Lissner said. "We've found the hydro power facilities help provide an excellent habitat for fish," he said. "And we're working with ODNR on plans that will protect continued recreational uses at the dams."

Free Flow Power is pursuing a number of similar small hydro power projects in other areas, but Lissner said the Muskingum River facilities will be among the first to go into operation once licensing is approved by the commission. Licensing is being sought for projects on locks and dams at Devola, Lowell, Beverly, Malta/McConnelsville, Rokeby, Philo and Zanesville. A larger hydroelectric project is under construction at the Willow Island Dam on the Ohio River in Pleasants County. It is expected to go into commercial operation in the fall of 2014, according to American Municipal Power Ohio. The plant has been under construction since June 2011 and will have an estimated generation capacity of 35 megawatts.

For more information or media related inquiries please contact:

Tom Feldman

Vice President of Regulatory Affairs

Office: (978) 252-7361

Email: tfeldman@free-flow-power.com