Greetings from Pownal, Vermont, where hydro power is happening. My name is Dennis Candelora and I have been developing a small scale hydro project for the past four years. For those of you who don’t know, Pownal is situated in the southwest corner of the state bordering NY and MA. We are the furthest town in the state from Montpelier and are often forgotten about.
We are however being highlighted for a reason not many would expect – we are home to one of the first small-scale hydro projects to be commissioned in New England in some time.
Our hydro power project is now within months of final permitting and commissioning. The road to reach this point has been long, challenging and mostly uncharted, but be assured it can be done.
The project, recently highlighted in the Bennington Banner, will consist of a 65kW run of the river Pelton turbine. We own and live on 450 acres that provide excellent site conditions including a steady stream and substantial vertical drop or head. When completed, the project will provide enough power to sustain 60 average Vermont homes.
Green energy projects and particularly hydro projects are a massive undertaking, especially for a private individual. As I began the project I was told, “Don’t waste your time” when inquiring into the permitting process. Permitting alone could take a couple of years. Sorting through the information needed was overwhelming, and I sought the counsel of a reputable consulting firm familiar with large hydro projects. When I received a quote of nearly $100,000 to assist in obtaining the required permits I knew I would handle the project myself. After all, why outsource thousands of dollars to a large consulting firm when the whole project is about just the opposite – local energy, local families and keeping money and innovation in Vermont. My wife and I both have degrees in natural resource management, and my wife has a law degree in addition, giving us a good educational and skills background for the project. We decided to tackle it ourselves.
Throughout the permitting process I have managed to satisfy all “stakeholders” (FERC lingo for interested parties) involved. This required hundreds of man-hours of flow measurements, head measurements, fish surveys, funding requests, grant requests, design work, price quoting and vast communication between local, state and federal agencies to name a few. We are lucky in Vermont to have the Vermont Agency of Natural Resources, specifically the folks in stream protection and fisheries, who were extremely helpful, cooperative and timely in my project. They helped provide needed guidance and feedback as the project developed.
It is a lengthy process and can be highly frustrating to be knee-deep in bureaucracy when you are trying to get a project on-line that has been determined to pose no adverse environmental impacts, and only stands to benefit our community, our children and our environment. Despite frustrations and roadblocks, it is very important that projects get on-line to help iron out the permitting process for a prosperous green energy future.
Juggling this along with raising a family with my wife (4 children under 6) and working full time created an interesting paradigm in the household. I may have the only children under 6 who know what CFS (cubic feet per second) is and how to measure stream flow. My wife and I often included our children in the daily flow measurements that we made over a 2 ½ year period to establish a hydrograph and flow duration curves. After all aren’t we doing this for them? A little help from the benefactors isn’t a bad thing.
I am very satisfied with choosing this path, as I have gained a thorough understanding of all things hydro, and broken new ground with the project. It has given me the platform to promote clean, green, responsible energy. In fact, I now have the privilege of taking on clients to help others initiate and develop hydro projects throughout the state.
Hydro is possible.Hydro is beneficial. And hydro is happening.
Key pieces of info required when assessing your site.
- Flow-How much water do you have? Year round or seasonal flow?
- Flow can be expressed in Gallons per minute (GPM) and easily converted into other units.
- Head-Elevation difference between your intake and your turbine
- USGS Topo maps provide the quickest method-There are several online resources just Google
- Penstock distance-Distance from your intake to your turbine
- Lineal distance in feet. Again, a USGS Topo map or good old fashion tape measure
- Ownership-Do you own the land?
- Very helpful if you do, not impossible if you don’t.
- Access to grid (if you intend to interconnect). Can be a substantial hurdle to bring in power to your site.
Having this info before reaching out to a hydro professional will allow for a quick assessment of your site. Thinking about what your goals are will help in the design as well.
By: Dennis Candelora
Photo: Peter Crabtree/Bennington Banner
Dennis Candelora and his family are proposing to build a hydro project in Pownal
that could provide enough electricity to power the equivalent of 48.5 homes per year.
With Candelora are his wife, Lani, are their four children, Maria, 6, Angelo, 4, Antony, 3, and Luccio, 31/2 months.
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