Stowe Electric to use federal funds to restore hydroelectric plant

Published: Aug. 16, 2022 at 6:22 PM EDT
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STOWE, Vt. (WCAX) - The Stowe Electric Department is using federal grant money to restore a hydroelectric plant. The utility plans to bring energy resources to the future while preserving the past.

“We’re combining the past and the future,” said Ellen Burt, the general manager of the Stowe Electric Department.

The Stowe Electric Department plans to use a $1.2 million federal grant to restore a hydro plant, adding a new renewable energy resource to the town.

Funding for the project was included in the annual Senate Appropriations Bill released in August. The money will be used to upgrade and rebuild a sluiceway and other framework at the Smith Falls hydro plant that was damaged in 2011 by Tropical Storm Irene.

“The weather is changing. When I first got into the business, it was snowstorms. Now, we’re getting particularly stalled because of the elevation here on the mountain... We had multiple places and still that we’re out of power for weeks. We have to plan and make sure that we can keep our customers’ power on, it’s critical,” Burt said.

The new plant is intended to help improve the resilience of critical infrastructure in Stowe.

“It’s what they call a net-zero microgrid. It’s totally powered by renewable energy. And then we’re going to in the case of a catastrophe, we’ll be able to keep the critical infrastructure up with a town of Stowe,” Burt said.

The restoration is part of the department’s larger plan. The utility built a 1-megawatt solar farm that was energized in August 2016. They plan to combine the solar farm and restored hydro plant into a net-zero microgrid project, avoiding rising transmission and capacity costs from traditional energy sources.

“Not only is it a good thing for the community, it’s saving them money,” Burt said.

Public Service Department officials say the project helps put Vermont on the right track for meeting climate goals.

“We’re very much in support of affordable new renewable energy, and every piece of that is an important part of the mix,” said T.J. Poor of the Vermont Public Service Department.

And that restoring the historical aspect of the site honors the local community as well.

“It becomes a resource for the community that really just empowers the community to take ownership of their own energy supply,” Poor said.

The hydro facility is expected to be back online and providing energy by next year.

Once the plant is completed, the department plans to begin the historical restorations.

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