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Alternative energy options: Realistic for the Ohio Valley?

February 26, 2014
By SCOTT McCLOSKEY - For The Times Leader , Times Leader

NEW MARTINSVILLE - With all the talk about "green" energy - primarily solar, wind and hydroelectric - the conversation naturally turns to just how well suited the Ohio Valley is for these types of power.

Hydro? There's a river here, so check. Wind? Not much wind in the area, so that's not as feasible. And solar? The sun doesn't shine as much as we'd like, but in some circumstances, solar does work, as can be seen with the number of homes and barns with solar panels located on the roof.

The Ohio Valley finds itself traveling a road that sits between the renewables such as hydro, wind and solar and the traditional forms of energy - coal and natural gas. Many believe a balance between the two is key to not only the region's but the nation's energy future.

Article Photos

Photo provided
Between 2012 and 2013 two giant turbine runners like the one pictured here were sandblasted and repainted at the Wetzel County hydroelectric plant as part of the unit’s ongoing maintenance.

The New Martinsville/Hannibal Hydroelectric Plant is the area's most recognizable form of renewable energy.

Hydropower is one of the oldest sources of energy through a process that involves harnessing energy from moving water. It currently provides about 8 percent of all power in the U.S. and more than 90 percent of all the renewable power generated in the country, according to Hydro Review.

Hydroelectric power provides more than 16 times as much energy as wind and solar power combined and is far more reliable. Unlike coal and natural gas power plants, hydropower plants create no air or water pollution.

While the New Martinsville/Hannibal Hydroelectric Plant has used the Ohio River to generate its power since the plant was first commissioned in 1988, American Municipal Power is actively developing multiple hydroelectric projects in the region, pursuing the largest deployment of run-of-the-river hydroelectric generation in the country, according to the company's website.

Currently, 79 communities from Ohio, Michigan, Virginia, Kentucky and West Virginia, along with the Central Virginia Electric Cooperative, are participating in the hydroelectric projects. Other communities may have the opportunity to participate as additional capacity is added, according to AMP.

AMP is developing five new hydroelectric projects in the region that will add more than 350 megawatts of new, renewable generation. These hydroelectric facilities will be installed on existing dams on the Ohio River.

A more than $300 million contract was signed with York, Pa.-based Voith Hydro, which also has a facility at the former Ormet Rolling Mill in Hannibal, to manufacture turbines and generators for the first four of these projects at the Smithland, Cannelton, and Meldahl facilities in Kentucky and the Willow Island Locks and Dam in West Virginia.

The New Martinsville facility is owned and operated by the city of New Martinsville. It produces enough power for a city seven times the size of New Martinsville and sells power to Monongahela Power Co. (a subsidiary of First Energy) for distribution on the nation's electric grid.

New Martinsville/Hannibal Hydroelectric Plant Manager Chuck Stora, who has worked at the plant since it was first commissioned in 1988, believes that any source of renewable energy is a positive thing for the Upper Ohio Valley.

"You can't beat hydro. There is no pollution ... and all of these new plants down the river is going to use the same water that I use (at the New Martinsville plant)," said Stora - referring to the additional hydropower plants being strategically positioned on the Ohio River by AMP.

American Municipal Power had been considering a hydroelectric plant at the Pike Island Locks and Dam in Ohio County, but earlier this month pulled its permit application.



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