Gardner Falls hydroelectric dam in Buckland gets $217K from USDA

  • The Gardner Falls hydroelectric station on the Deerfield River in Buckland. STAFF PHOTO/PAUL FRANZ

  • Gardner Falls on the Deerfield River. STAFF PHOTO/PAUL FRANZ

Staff Writer
Published: 12/16/2021 4:51:54 PM

BUCKLAND — Work got underway at the Gardner Falls hydroelectric plant last month as the facility’s owner learned it would receive a six-figure grant to replace the equipment that safely interconnects the generator to the power grid.

Central Rivers Power Massachusetts has secured a $217,584 reimbursement grant from the U.S. Department of Agriculture’s Rural Energy for America Program and a company representative said the money is being spent on the electrical switchgear, breakers, relays and controls. The representative said the portions of the plant getting modernized are more than 100 years old. He said the company uses some key contractors and the work is expected to wrap up in the next two or three months.

The project will increase the Gardner Falls facility’s carbon-free generation.

Central Rivers Power owns one Buckland hydroelectric plant, which it purchased from Cogentrix, and 45 across the United States. It is one of 13 Massachusetts, Connecticut and Rhode Island businesses splitting more than $28 million that the USDA is investing in renewable energy and energy efficiency. This money is part of $633 million to reduce the impact of climate change on rural communities.

According to the U.S. Department of Energy, hydropower “is a renewable source of energy that generates power by using a dam or diversion structure to alter the natural flow of a river or other body of water.”

Jonathan Burns, a USDA Rural Development loan specialist for Massachusetts, Connecticut and Rhode Island, said grant applicants are selected based on their scoring in eight criteria, which include the amount of renewable energy generated per grant dollar requested and whether the project has the documented financial wherewithal to be completed. Any company that receives a grant is allowed two years to finish the project. He said not all applicants are selected.

Burns said he will visit the Gardner Falls facility for a final site inspection when the work is finished.

“Solar power is the 800-pound gorilla in the room that everyone talks about these days, but hydropower is definitely an important facet in the renewable energy puzzle,” he said.

“Rural America is on the front lines of climate change, and our communities deserve investments that will strengthen all of our resilience,” USDA Secretary Tom Vilsack said in a statement. “President Biden has created a roadmap for how we can tackle the climate crisis and expand access to renewable energy infrastructure, all while creating good-paying jobs and saving people money on their energy costs. With the Build Back Better agenda, USDA will be able to fund more and more critical projects like those announced today in the coming months and years.”

Reach Domenic Poli at: or
413-772-0261, ext. 262.


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