Tuesday February 26, 2013

TOWNSHEND -- Construction of two planned hydroelectric projects on the West River has been delayed for a few months.

But both facilities -- at Townshend Dam and at Ball Mountain Dam in Jamaica -- still are expected to be operational later this year, said Bud Cherry, chief executive officer of developer Eagle Creek Renewable Energy.

"We are looking forward to getting the equipment there, getting it installed and getting it in service in relatively short order," Cherry said.

New Jersey-based Eagle Creek took over the two projects when the company acquired Blue Heron Hydro LLC from developer Lori Barg last summer.

With both projects already having received 50-year operating licenses from the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission, Eagle Creek administrators had hoped to get construction started in the first quarter of this year.

That schedule has been pushed back, Cherry said.

"It looks right now like it's probably not going to start until late in the second quarter," he said. "We're trying to better optimize the design, and things are just moving a little slower than we had hoped."

The idea behind the extra preparatory work, Cherry said, is to "make sure we were getting the most out of this system."

Nonetheless, Cherry said the hydroelectric plants still are scheduled to begin operating sometime in the third quarter. That's because preliminary construction of each plant's equipment is happening in Colorado.

"The amount of work (required) at the site is relatively modest," Cherry said.

"Modest" also might refer to the facilities' total estimated power output -- 3.1 megawatts. But Cherry has said the projects' small size and their locations were seen as positives for Eagle Creek, which was founded in 2010.

"These additions to existing Army Corps of Engineers dams represent one of the principal areas of growth for Eagle Creek," Cherry said.

The hydro plants also will be the first such facilities for Eagle Creek in Vermont.

"We do hope to change that over time," Cherry said.

Estimated construction costs have not been released, though Cherry has said federal financing will offset some of those costs.

Both projects have long-term power-purchase agreements through the Vermont Sustainably Priced Energy Development program.

Mike Faher can be reached at mfaher@reformer.com or 802-254-2311, ext. 275.