The Tribune Democrat, Johnstown, PA

Editorials

February 19, 2014

Hydro plans spark interest | CSA explores electric-generating options

JOHNSTOWN — If someone mentions hydroelectric dams, Hoover Dam, Niagara Falls and maybe the Tennessee Valley Authority probably pop to mind.

Nobody would ever think of the Quemahoning or Hinckston Run reservoirs or Peggy’s Run.

Nobody, that is, except the Cambria Somerset Authority, owners of the three sites.

For years, the authority has been exploring hydroelectric generating stations on its holdings and had enlisted the help of Kleinschmidt Associates, energy consultants based in Maine, to come up with a feasible design.

Kleinschmidt recently referred CSA to Gravity Renewables of Boulder, Colo. CSA and Gravity have entered into talks about a potential partnership agreement that would place a mini-electric-generating turbine on Peggy’s Run, near its terminus with the Conemaugh River in Franklin Borough.

“This is all still very early in the (discussion) process,” CSA Chairman Jim Greco told our David Hurst. “But it could be a positive step. It certainly won’t hurt to explore it.”

Gravity seems to be a perfect partner for CSA.

“The company has extensive experience in small hydros,” said authority manager Earl Waddell.

The Peggy’s Run location would be an atypical generating site, given that it is not an impoundment generally associated with a hydroelectric generating operation. The mini-turbine, instead, would take advantage of the 30-cubic-foot-per-second water flow rate of Peggy’s Run.

The turbine would be installed in the 30-inch line that carries Peggy’s Run underground through the former Bethlehem Steel Corp. operations in Franklin Borough. The turbine would be housed in a tiny, metal building near the EMF Development Corp. operations along River Avenue.

Gravity also is interested in placing a turbine at the Quemahoning dam, which is located near Hollsopple. The flows from the Que and Peggy’s Run could produce about 1.8 mega-watts of energy annually.

The cost of the project, which currently is on hold, would exceed $5 million, but CSA said it could realize about $534,000 a year in revenue from the Que and Peggy’s Run turbines.

CSA has several options for the electricity. Putting the electricity back into the grid by selling it to utility companies would be one of them.

This is very exciting news for our area. Some of our ridgetops already are dotted with wind-energy turbines. Add hydroelectricity into the equation, and it’s possible that the extra electricity could take some of the strain off the coal-fired generating plants.

But as Waddell said: “All of this is very preliminary.”

Preliminary, yes, but it has sparked our interest, and we look forward to hearing more about the project, and possibly seeing it come to fruition soon.

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