Dexter looks to harness hydropower from stream

Posted Nov. 17, 2009, at 9:06 p.m.
Last modified Jan. 30, 2011, at 12:08 p.m.

DEXTER, Maine — With financial help from the federal and state governments, this town in the future could generate half of the electricity used in its municipal buildings through hydroelectric power, thus reducing its consumption of fossil fuels, according to a town official.

To do that, town officials are seeking an $85,000 Federal Energy Efficiency and Conservation Block grant to begin the development of a hydroelectric generation facility near the outlet of Lake Wassookeag dam. The estimated cost of the project is $298,000.

“Cross your fingers, this could be a great thing,” Town Manager Dave Pearson told the Town Council recently.

The town pays about $100,000 a year for electricity, and a hydroelectric facility could shave that price by about half, according to Pearson.

Since 2007, a committee made up of residents, farmers and business owners has been studying the issue, networking and exploring energy sources that might produce longtime savings for the town and reduce emissions. The council-sanctioned panel, which works with a $20,000 budget, has saved the town about $7,000 by in-stituting conservation measures in the municipal buildings, Pearson said.

The committee had initially proposed setting up a demonstration project at the outlet of the dam, the same water source that powered some 16 mills along the lake outlet in the 19th century, to educate residents and attract interest in the potential of hydropower.

That idea was elevated to a business proposition when James Sysko of Newry, a professional engineer, mentioned the real power generation potential the outlet stream offered, according to the town manager. Based on Sysko’s enthusiasm, Pearson said the committee retained a Bangor law firm to research the water rights of the town along the stream to the old stone dam below the former grist mill located downtown. That research was favorable, so the committee hired Sysko to design a hydroelectric generating facility for the site.

The proposal is to build a plant that would generate 359,160 kilowatt-hours per year, reduce greenhouse gas emissions by 369,051 pounds per year, eliminate the need of 8,835 gallons of fuel oil, and create jobs.

Pearson said the grant funds would help pay for the anticipated lengthy permitting process, consultants, a head gate, a powerhouse building and a turbine. The town has budgeted $10,000 for engineering and legal work.

“Our project, and as an example for future projects, will help meet the state’s goal of reducing energy use from 1990 figures by 25 percent in 2012,” Pearson said.

dianabdn@myfairpoint.net

876-4579

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