Rhode Island boosts hydro to increase renewable energy

Gov. Donald Carcieri has announced a plan to use hydropower to increase the overall amount of renewable energy that is produced in Rhode Island.

The governor said Sept. 8 that Rhode Island could use hydropower to increase its renewable energy to 20 percent by 2011, up from a previous goal of 15 percent by 2016 by using wind power, which Carcieri first announced in January.

Although Rhode Island is the smallest U.S. state, it has more than 650 dams. State officials are working to identify existing dams that are capable of producing a total of about 10 MW. Priority funding would be given to dams that are in need of repair.

Carcieri spoke at a ceremony to announce development plans for 1.5-MW Harris Mill, a $1.5 million hydroelectric project in Coventry that will feature a new turbine and power plant at a dam on the Pawtuxet River. Redevelopment of the mill complex also will include apartments and condominiums. The power plant also will use biofuel to produce steam for heating and to generate more electricity.

Harris Mill is being developed by Rhode Island Construction Services Inc., Johnston, R.I., with the help of a $500,000 loan from the state Office of Energy Resources’ Renewable Energy Fund, private equity, and a bank loan.

The project will generate return income to the Renewable Energy Fund. The fund also will receive 2 cents per kWh from the sale of renewable energy certificates that will be created by the project, which is expected to generate more than 10 gigawatt-hours annually. As the money is repaid to the fund, other projects can tap into the resource.

Other hydro initiatives under way

“While we may not have the reserves of oil and natural gas that many states have, we are blessed with rivers and the ocean, and we need to put those natural resources to work for us,” Carcieri said.

Harris Mill project is one of several hydro initiatives under way. Less than a mile away on the Pawtuxet, a turbine soon is to be installed at another mill complex, the 200-kW Royal Mills project (No. 12557) being developed by SBER Royal Mills LLC.

Additionally, Rhode Island made a grant to the developer of the American Tourister Mill renovation project to study the feasibility of capturing energy alongside the property from the tidal flow of the Palmer River.

The state also is interested in developing projects that would generate electricity from ocean power. Rhode Island’s southern shore is a test site for technology being commercialized by Energetech of Australia that would generate electricity from ocean waves.

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