Let if flow: State aids Orange hydro dam repair

  • The Mini-Watt Hydroelectric plant in Orange, off West River Street by the South Main Street intersection. Recorder staff/Chris Curtis

Recorder Staff
Published: 4/20/2016 9:29:42 PM

ORANGE — A local hydroelectric plant is in line for $500,000 in state aid to stop leaks and modernize equipment, including a fully-automated system that can be controlled via smartphone.

State energy officials on Wednesday announced $1.05 million in grants to support upgrades to three western Massachusetts hydroelectric facilities: Mini-Watt Hydroelectric in Orange, Pioneer Hydro Electric Co. in Ware and A & D Hydro Inc. in West Springfield.

The Mini-Watt facility is located off West River Street and owned by a corporation of the same name with a Holyoke mailing address, according to town assessors’ records and State Registry of Deeds land records. The plant sits on the Millers River by the South Main Street bridge. The main building is a padlocked shed.

The Orange facility received the lion’s share of the state money for upgrades, ones the state said are expected to increase electric generation by at least 516,000 kWh per year, enough to power 68 average Massachusetts homes. The Ware plant receives $478,000 for upgrades expected to yield an increase equivalent to the annual power needs of 74 homes. The West Springfield facility receives $68,831 with an anticipated 15-home payoff.

The Baker administration says the initiatives are aimed at increasing Massachusetts’ clean energy production.

“These grants to make hydropower facilities more efficient and (increase) hydropower production will help us meet our greenhouse gas emissions goals and continue to increase the role of renewables in our energy portfolio,” Gov. Charlie Baker said, in acknowledging that his administration recognizes the importance of improving renewable energy facilities.

“Over one million dollars in new funding for western Massachusetts hydropower will keep us on track towards reducing greenhouse gas emissions and increasing our usage of renewable resources,” said state Senate President Stan Rosenberg in a release through the Mass. Clean Energy Center. The Clean Energy Center Hydropower Program is funded by municipal electric departments that have opted to participate in the program Renewable Energy Trust program, and a charge paid by electric customers of investor-owned utilities in the state.

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