Small hydropower projects secure funds from Massachusetts Clean Energy Center

The Massachusetts Clean Energy Center announced it is releasing grants to support six hydropower projects under the Commonwealth Hydro Initiative.

MassCEC’s board of directors approved the grants, totaling more than US $600,000. The awards include design and construction grants for upgrades and repairs to two hydropower projects totaling the equivalent of about 1 megawatt in capacity and feasibility studies for four hydropower projects that would total the equivalent of more than 600 kW in capacity.

The six grants go to public and private projects, including municipal water departments. The Commonwealth Hydropower Initiative is funded by MassCEC’s Renewable Energy Trust Fund, which is funded by renewable energy charges on electric bills, generating roughly $24 million a year to support renewable energy installations and companies throughout the Commonwealth.

The two projects receiving design and construction grants are in Holyoke and Russell. MassCEC awarded a $260,418 grant to Woronoco Hydro LLC for upgrades to its FERC-licensed hydropower generating station on the Westfield River in Russell. This facility has three turbines with a total nameplate capacity of 1.9 MW and currently generates approximately 9,345,000 kilowatt-hours per year on a long-term average basis. The planned upgrades will increase generation by approximately 1 million kWh annually and include installation of an automatic trash rake that will clear debris and ice from the trash racks, repairing the draft tube and dredging the outlet of the tailrace pool. The grant represents 50 percent of the total $520,836 project cost.

“MassCEC’s grant will help pay for the efficiency improvements that will increase annual generation by about ten percent,” said Peter Clark, manager of Woronoco Hydro LLC. “We have wanted to make these upgrades for a while – with this grant, we’ll be able to do so.”

MassCEC awarded a $309,825 grant to Holyoke Gas & Electric (HG&E) for the repair and upgrade of its No. Four Project, a FERC-licensed hydropower generating station on the Holyoke canal system. The facility has two 375 kW-rated generating units, one of which has been out of service since a 2004 fire. The planned rehabilitation will repair damaged equipment and upgrade the controls and automation. Once completed, the facility will generate approximately additional 997,000 kilowatt-hours per year of electricity. The grant represents 50 percent of the total $619,650 project cost.

Awards for the four feasibility studies go to projects in Pittsfield, Holyoke, West Springfield and Fitchburg. A&D Hydro, in conjunction with Alden Research Laboratory will study the feasibility of increasing generation and improving upstream fish passage at the West Springfield Project. This hydroelectric station currently produces approximately 5 million kilowatt-hours per year, which the owners believe can be increased by up to 10 percent by excavating the tailrace to increase the operating head.

The City of Fitchburg will study the feasibility of replacing a pressure reducing valve with an energy recovery system that would utilize the pressure differential at its Narrows Road station. MassCEC will provide a grant of $15,600 for the study.

The City of Holyoke will study the feasibility of installing two in-conduit turbines, totaling approximately 41 kilowatts, in water delivery conduits in the vicinity of the McLean Water Treatment Facility. The electricity produced, estimated to be approximately 270,000 kilowatt-hours per year, would be equivalent to approximately 80 percent of the electricity consumed by the water treatment plant.

The City of Pittsfield will study the feasibility of upgrading its existing Ashley Hydropower Plant, which currently generates power from water flowing from one water supply reservoir to another. MassCEC will provide a grant of $35,000 for the study. The grantee is supplying a 20 percent cost-share to meet the total study cost of $44,000. 

This article was reprinted with permission from as part of the PennWell Corporation Renewable Energy World Network and may not be reproduced without express written permission from the publisher.

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