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Tuesday, May 10, 2011

Boston firm aims to harness river power by 2017

From an article by Steve Cahalan in the La Crosse Tribune:

A Massachusetts company hopes to develop hydroelectric projects at nine upper Mississippi River lock and dam sites by 2017, officials said Monday.

Free Flow Power Corp., a 3-year-old Boston firm, plans to apply for federal licenses for hydropower projects that in this area include Lock and Dam 4 at Alma, Lock and Dam 6 at Trempealeau, Lock and Dam 7 near Dresbach, Minn., and Lock and Dam 9 near Lynxville.

The nine projects could meet the electricity needs of 65,000 homes, company officials told about 40 people at a public informational meeting at the Radisson Hotel in La Crosse.

Each project would have one of three designs — a traditional hydroelectric powerhouse that would be built on the end of the dam and contain turbines; a “gate bay installation” alternative with turbines installed in front of or behind existing dam gates; or a system with turbines installed at the bottom of the auxiliary lock. Studies would determine which design would be best for a particular lock and dam.

The Federal Energy Regulatory Agency will accept written comments in the next 60 days on what studies should be required during Free Flow Power’s licensing process.

Officials of various state and federal agencies accounted for most of the people at Monday’s 2½-hour session. But a few members of the public also spoke, including retired boat captain Byron Clements of Genoa, who questioned the feasibility of hydroelectric power on the Mississippi.

“I don’t think they can make it work and make money at it,” Clements said after the meeting. Clements, who with his wife operates Captain Hook’s Bait & Tackle shop in Genoa, said he also is concerned about fish being killed by the turbines.

The proposed turbines would turn much slower than those traditionally used in major hydroelectric projects in the western United States, said Jack Batchelder, a Free Flow Power environmental scientist.

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