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Watertown's hydro power not running at capacity

  • Jan 29, 2019 7:09 am GMT
Watertown Daily Times

Jan. 29--WATERTOWN -- The city's hydroelectric plant is not running at capacity because of a problem with a National Grid substation in Black River.

For much of January, only one of three turbines at the Marble Avenue hydro plant has worked because of a broken breaker at the Black River substation, Water Superintendent Vicky Murphy said.

The problem has limited the amount of electricity that the 91-year-old hydro plant can produce, city engineer Jeffrey Hammond said.

The issue began around Jan. 10. National Grid promised to fix the problem since then, but for some reason that hasn't happened, Ms. Murphy said.

On Monday morning, Mr. Hammond said the city was told it was going to be corrected each of the past two weeks. He's waiting to hear why it has not been fixed.

But late afternoon, National Grid spokeswoman Virginia J. Limmiatis said the breaker project was completed on Monday.

"Everything is back to normal," she said.

Depending on how cold it is outside, two turbines are typically up and running, he said.

The city is losing revenue because it sells its excess hydroelectricity to National Grid.

Mr. Hammond hopes to put together figures on how much money the city is losing. He plans to give the City Council a status report on the situation.

For most of this past summer, all three turbines -- known as Faith, Hope and Charity -- were shut down for $400,000 in major and emergency repairs, causing revenues to dry up until they were fixed.

Approximately $500,000 in additional repairs on the plant's electrical system also will be completed in 2019.

The plant supplies electricity to more than 20 city buildings and properties. After using the energy from the hydroelectric plant for city buildings, the city sells its excess power to National Grid for nearly 22 cents per kilowatt-hour.

The city is in the middle of a franchise agreement to sell electricity to National Grid that began in 1991 and expires in 2029, when the company will pay the city 34.7 cents per kwh.

Council members plan to discuss the National Grid contract during a work session next month.


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