Fire damages 4-MW Gardner Falls small hydro plant in Massachusetts

A fire occurred at the 4-MW Gardner Falls small hydro plant on the Deerfield River in Massachusetts on Sunday, April 16.

According to information published by The Recorder, power at the plant “went out” on Sunday and a smoke alarm went off in the evening. Buckland Fire Chief Herb Guyette said the belief is that with the power off, one of the valves opened and water was passed through the turbine when it was not operating, leading to overheating. Guyette said oil on top of the turbine, for lubrication purposes, likely caused the fire.

The fire was extinguished in about an hour. There were no injuries and nobody was inside the building, The Recorder reports.

The extent of the damage has not been determined but it is reported the fire stayed contained.

The project has been certified by the Low Impact Hydropower Institute twice, one in February 2011 and again in February 2016 when the expiration date was extended to November 2017. At the time, the owner listed was North American Energy Alliance.

The LIHI website says the project was constructed in 1904 and included two hydroelectric turbines. The powerhouse was expanded in 1914 with the installation of two more turbines and in 1924 with one additional turbine. One of the original turbines was retired in 1971 and the penstock was plugged and filled in. The powerhouse is brick and concrete.

LIHI says the concrete gravity dam is 337 feet long with a maximum height of 30 feet and impounds a reservoir with gross storage of 190 acre-feet and usable storage of 37.2 acre-feet.

The Gardner Falls plant is managed and operated by Cogentrix, according to its website, although The Recorder reports it is run by Essential Power Massachusetts.

Cogentrix is an independent power producer that manages and operates about 30 natural gas, solar, hydro, petroleum and coal facilities throughout the U.S. Cogentrix is owned by funds managed by The Carlyle Group.

Cogentrix reported in January 2017 that it had completed the integration of Essential Power into the power generation portfolio of The Carlyle Group. Essential Power had a portfolio of 1,767 MW of power generation. Cogentrix manages plants in the Carlyle portfolio, which has a total net capacity of about 5,800 MW.

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Elizabeth Ingram is content director for the Hydro Review website and HYDROVISION International. She has more than 17 years of experience with the hydroelectric power industry. Follow her on Twitter @ElizabethIngra4 .

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