Auburn looking for return of hydro-electric glory

2012-09-28T03:05:00Z 2012-09-28T08:47:56Z Auburn looking for return of hydro-electric gloryNathan Baker The Citizen Auburn Citizen
September 28, 2012 3:05 am  • 

AUBURN | The city hopes to once again harness the power of the Owasco River by restarting electricity generation at the Mill Street Dam.

At an Auburn City Council meeting Thursday evening, representatives of Siemens Inc. outlined their plan to get the 40-year-old dam back on the grid by replacing or renovating key components.

"For the redevelopment of this plant we have several options," Siemens lead energy engineer Joe O'Connor told the councilors. "One of them is just to repair and rebuild the existing equipment or we could put new equipment in."

The City Council entered into an energy performance contract with Siemens earlier this year to find ways to increase efficiency in the city's current power usage and to help fund modernization projects that will further help improve efficiency.

The company will be paid from the savings it achieves for the municipality.

O'Connor said repairing the dormant Mill Street Dam was identified early on as having a large potential to reduce the city's energy costs.

In 2004, Auburn locked the aging turbine at the dam instead of borrowing money to repair or replace it.

O'Connor said aside from the turbine, some of the structures need repair and the shoreline downriver of the dam needs some reinforcement.

He estimated the cost of the project at $2 to 6 million and that the city would reach a break-even point in 15 to 20 years.

The updates would have an estimated lifespan of 50 to 75 years.

When operating, the dam generated 410 kilowatt hours of electricity, but could only work about 70 percent of the year when the river's flow was strong enough to turn the turbine.

O'Connor said new turbines can produce more electricity and operate at lower flows, which means the city could generate more power than before.

By taking advantage of a remote net metering program recently approved by the state Legislature, the city could use the generated power to offset electricity costs at other city buildings or decide to directly connect companies to city-produced power, using the low-cost electricity as an economic development tool.

In October, Siemens is expected to complete its assessment of the Mill Street Dam project and present its finding and recommendation to the city.

A review of the North Division Street Dam and should be finished by the end of November.

Staff writer Nathan Baker can be reached at 282-2238 or Follow him on Twitter @CitizenBaker.

Copyright 2015 Auburn Citizen. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.

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