Power On The River
WHEELING – Two companies believe they can generate up to 256,000 megawatt-hours of renewable power per year by building a hydroelectric plant at the Pike Island Locks and Dam.
As American Electric Power prepares to retire Marshall County’s coal-fired Kammer Plant by the end of next year, both American Municipal Power and Free Flow Power Project are seeking permission from the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission to build this hydroelectric plant.
American Municipal Power is the company that operates the New Martinsville Hydroelectric Plant at the Hannibal Locks and Dam, which began generating power in 1988. According to the company, the New Martinsville plant is capable of producing 18 megawatts per hour on each of its two generating turbines.
New Martinsville Plant Manager Chuck Stora, who has worked at the plant since it started operating, said the pressure required to drive the plant’s two turbines – 28,000 cubic feet of water per second – would fill a pair of football field-sized swimming pools with 10 feet of water in just 10 seconds.
In place since 1963, the Pike Island Locks and Dam spans the Ohio River just north of the Warwood section of Wheeling on the West Virginia side and near Yorkville on the Ohio side.
As an advocate for reducing pollution from the burning of fossil fuels, Wheeling Jesuit University biology professor Ben Stout called the potential hydroelectric plant “a step in the right direction.”
“This energy is being wasted now. The dam is already there with all of that potential energy just streaming across it,” he said. “Not only would it be environmentally friendly, but it would help us achieve energy independence.”
According to its preliminary plans as noted in a legal ad, AMP would build a 155-foot wide, 71-foot tall water intake structure near the Ohio side of the dam, while the project would cover “several acres of federal lands.” The plan would generate up to 256,000 megawatt-hours per year.
For its competing plan, Free Flow Power Project proposes to build a 225-foot wide, 50-foot long intake facility near the Ohio side of the dam, which it states would also cover several acres of federal lands. This plant would generate roughly 225,000 megawatt-hours per year.
Officials with both AMP and Free Flow Power Project could not be immediately reached for further comment Wednesday. The FERC would eventually chose one project over the other, if either meets all of the requirements.
Those who wish to comment on the construction of these possible hydroelectric plants can do so by mailing them to: Secretary, Federal Energy Regulatory Commission; 888 First St. N.E.; Washington, D.C. 20426. The comments should include the docket number: P-13687-002.