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BED set to buy hydro dam and go 100% renewable - WCAX.COM Local Vermont News, Weather and Sports-

BED set to buy hydro dam and go 100% renewable

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BURLINGTON, Vt. -

The Winooski One hydro project could soon be under new ownership and that would be a milestone for the Burlington Electric Department. The deal isn't sealed just yet, but if approved by voters in March, BED will purchase the dam. It's a transaction that could benefit BED as well as customers.

Burlington Electric has had plans to purchase the Winooski One Dam since the 1980s. After current ownership and BED settled on a purchase price of $16 million, the deal is finally moving forward and will allow Burlington Electric to provide a 100 percent renewable power supply.

"We've entered a number of wind contracts over the last 10 years that serve another 30 percent of the load. We have a contract with Hydro-Quebec, and now the Winooski One plant would actually be the last piece to reach that goal," said Ken Nolan, the manager of power resources.

Power generated by the plant will be directly connected to the city's distribution system and sent straight to customers, meaning less reliance on the regional power grid.

"I think it's a great opportunity for the city to take ownership of a good working power plant and have local management of our river resources," said Paul Hines, the assistant professor of engineering.

With the purchase of the Winooski One dam, Burlington Electric will be creating energy locally and keeping costs low.

Once the bonds that will be used to purchase the dam are paid off, kilowatts per hour will go down from about 8 cents to approximately 4 cents.

"Once the bonds are paid off, which is what's on the ballot in March, it essentially becomes cost-free. Just the operating costs to maintain the plant," Nolan said.

The dam puts out 30 million kilowatt hours per a year and will provide about 8 percent of Burlington's power. Although changes in the river flows could affect how much power is produced and the costs, Burlington Electric says the benefits outweigh any concerns.

"We've looked at a whole range of possibilities of what could happen and under most scenarios, we think this is a really good deal for Burlington ratepayers," Nolan said.

When looking at other utility company rates-- in 2012, Green Mountain Power customers paid about $15 a month for 25 kilowatt hours. Vermont Electric Co-op customers paid a little under $19. Burlington Electric customers had some of the lowest rates at just over $11 a month.

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