Investors look to see if Brooklyn Dam could be profitable

November 06, 2013
GROVETON — If the final cost of bringing the Brooklyn Dam on the Upper Ammonoosuc River back on line as an active hydroelectric facility shows that it would be profitable, the project could be completed and begin to generate electricity by the end of 2014.

Ampersand Brooklyn Dam Hydro of Boston, Mass., has completed the water quality testing for the state Fish and Game Department and the U. S. Fish and Wildlife Service that is needed for it to move forward with the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission (FERC) paperwork and, finally, the required license to operate, explained company spokesman Greg Cloutier of Lancaster.

The major civil engineering cost estimates have been completed, and the renewable energy company is in the midst of pricing the major elements of the hydroelectric generating equipment — turbines and generators — that would have to be installed if power is to be generated.

"In our effort to nail down one of our last cost variables we had a meeting with the town of Northumberland selectmen on Monday night, Oct. 28, to try and get some idea of the expected property and machinery tax values for the project," Cloutier explained in an e-mail exchange. Uniquely, electric generation equipment is the only machinery tax levied in New Hampshire. "The selectmen okayed the process for reviewing the Brooklyn Dam project under a Payment in Lieu of Taxes (PILT) agreement available to renewable energy installations. "This is only to review the process and another vote would be required to accept the PILT method," Cloutier said.

If the dam were to be reactivated, it would be the first tangible sign of new economic life in the vicinity of the former Wausau Paper and Paper Board mill site, where extensive demolition work is taking place.

"Finally," Cloutier said, "we're doing some minor work at the Brooklyn Dam, including cleaning, painting, and minor repairs to the windows and to preserve the building and concrete as we continue with the development evaluation of the project."

The former two-story 50- by 50-foot concrete and brick-faced powerhouse was constructed about 1912.

The proposed project would include the existing

15-foot-high, 90-foot-long crib dam with a 30-foot-long spillway, the existing 18-acre reservoir, the powerhouse and outlet structure, and two new 300 kW turbine generator units with a total combined installed capacity of 600 kilowatts (.6 megawatts); plus a 50-foot-long transmission line connecting to a existing distribution line owned by Public Service of New Hampshire (PSNH).

The project would produce an estimated average annual generation of about 2,700 megawatt-hours that would be sold directly to PSNH.

An application for the project was first filed with FERC to study the feasibility of the Brooklyn Dam Hydroelectric Project under the name 5440 Hydro, Inc. in July 9, 2010, back when the property was owned by Groveton Acquisition LLC, in which Jerry Epstein of Perry, Videx of New Jersey was a partner.

FERC granted a preliminary permit in Sept. 2010, as well as priority to file a license application that was later extended.

Ampersand Energy Partners LLC of Boston regularly filed required progress reports with FERC on behalf of 5440 Hydro, noting that it had researched the previous plans made in the 1980s and early 1990s by the Odell Hydroelectric Corp. to revive the existing, non-operating run-of-river hydro station that had ceased operations about a half-century ago.

Although FERC issued licenses to re-energize the site at that time, the plant was not put in operation and the final license was surrendered in Nov. 2000.

5440 Hydro acquired Odell's license documentation, however, and its engineers used the existing technical data, environmental information, drawings, and other relevant information to help develop its own license application and, importantly, also "conducted a preliminary economic and financial analysis, underlining the economic viability of the project." There are a number of names associated with the project, Cloutier explained. "Ampersand Brooklyn Dam Hydro (ABDH) is the company formed in New Hampshire, with operating offices located in Boston, Mass., formed to own the project." Ampersand Energy Partners of Boston, Mass., and Power House Systems, Inc., (PHS) of Lancaster, in turn, own ABDH, he said. In addition, there is a one percent Managing Partner for the project: 5440 Hydro, Inc. "And, finally, 5440 Hydro is owned by Amp and PHS," Cloutier said, noting that these arrangements reflect the recommendations of industry experts.

"This is also the basic structure in Gilman for the Ampersand Gilman Hydro LP, owned by Ampersand Energy Partners of Boston and Power House Systems, Inc., of Lancaster," he explained, noting that there, too, 5440 Hydro, Inc., is a one percent managing partner for the project.

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