2016-09-16 / Letters

Hydropower is ‘good environmental policy’

To the editor: I was pleased to read Bill Pasquill’s response to my letter to the editor (Vote is chance to make environmental statement). Bill, those organizations whose sole purpose it appears to be is to tear down our Maine dams apparently haven’t spent much time looking at the on-going developments and the young entrepreneurs whose innovations, vision and new technology are revolutionizing New England hydropower production.

You need to look no further than two young men who grew up in Kennebunk (probably learned to swim in the Mousam, too), then went on to their engineering studies at Maine Maritime Academy, and recently were featured in a Bangor Daily News article (July 14, 2016) for developing “lower-cost ways to retrofit old non-generating dams.”

We know them here in Maine as award-winning Surge Hydro, a company that has been in discussions with the KLPD Trustees.

Changes in both state and federal laws are now providing incentives for upgrading and restoring hydro facilities.

Massachusetts, with its new Republican governor and Democrat State Legislature, recognizing that natural gas with its regional dependent pipelines won’t meet their state’s future energy needs, recently passed a bipartisan blueprint to meet their projected needs.

Along with expanded wind and solar, their plans call for a doubling of hydro-generated power. It’s now going to be much harder, Bill, for your national groups to tear down those producers of non-polluting green energy in Massachusetts.

Maine, in a law passed in 2007, required that all electricity suppliers had to provide 30 percent of their demand from renewable sources. That law also provided for Class 1 credits for projects that either resumed operations or were substantially refurbished after September 2005. Those credits then in turn could be sold to suppliers who couldn’t meet the 30 percent requirement.

Now, not only is it good environmental policy to produce hydropower, there are economic incentives to bring visionary entrepreneurs into the mission of revitalizing Maine’s dams.

Save the Mousam since last year has been advocating the KLPD Trustees to conduct two studies: the first focusing on our current generating equipment and the second on the new technology that’s already here.

The GZA Peer Review, authorized by the trustees to review the original Wright-Pierce Report, said “that upgrades to the equipment could increase output to $200,000-$300,000.”

That changes the revenue dramatically from the $114,212 revenue figure used in the Wright-Pierce Report. That means that the dams would PAY the ratepayers, quite comfortably, not cost them as has been asserted.

One of the members of our group, Peter Ashley, a person with extensive hydro and solar expertise and contacts, called the manufacturers of our generating equipment. They agreed that they could come to Kennebunk, needing only one day to make their assessment of the equipment, and then they would prepare their recommendations and costs for any repairs, upgrades, and possible increases in efficiency and production. In return, they asked only for their one-day expenses and the cost of preparing the report, an estimated total of $9,500. Despite having the funds in this year’s budget, the trustees declined.

We’ve also urged the trustees to bring in reputable, neutral, new technology experts to assess the potential of our dams and make their new cutting-edge 21st-century innovation recommendations tailored to our three dams and the Mousam. Again, the trustees have declined to do so. They could have learned, for example, that the new “micro generators” produce double the electricity and are more cost effective to maintain. Power companies like ours and private operators can now make money while producing more efficient and cheaper power.

The FERC process provides that any updates to existing equipment or replacement of that equipment can be bonded over the next 45 years of the new license so that all benefiting generations will share equally both the costs and the benefits.

KLPD will continue to produce hydropower for the next five-plus years of its existing license.

These generating assets — the dams and generating equipment belong to you.

Before a decision is made to abandon our locally produced and consumed power production, doesn’t it make sense to do the two studies? First, assess what we have and then enlist the new technology innovators to see what the future could hold for us.

Your yes vote for local Question 4 on Nov. 8 sends the message to the trustees, We want the facts before anyone walks away from what has been our source of continuing pride since the 1890s.

Tom Murphy
Kennebunk Landing

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