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Lisbon studies hydro power project


LISBON – The town is moving forward with a feasibility study to investigate plans to build a series of hydro-electric power turbines on the St. Lawrence River bottom between Lisbon Beach and Galop Island with the goal of providing low-cost energy to the region.

“I’d like to see us benefit from the resources we have here, and we’re not right now,” Lisbon Planning Board member Rhonda L. Roethel.

The turbines would be placed along the floor of the St. Lawrence River in the channel between Lisbon Beach and Galop Island, where the current is moving fast enough to turn the structures’ blades.

“That seems to be where the flow is the strongest,” Ms. Roethel said.

Ms. Roethel said the turbines would be entirely submerged and would not obscure the natural scenery.

While the type of turbines have not been selected, Ms. Roethel said, “We’re trying to find something low profile.”

The town is also looking for turbines with rubber blades that wouldn’t present a danger to the river’s fish population.

Ms. Roethel said she expects the turbines will be roughly five to six feet tall, connected to one another via underwater cables.

The cables will feed into an on-shore power station where the power will be fed into the grid.

The town already has a preliminary permit from the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission giving it permission to move forward with a feasibility study, which will be conducted at no charge by Thew Associates, Canton.

The goal is to make Lisbon a hub of cheap energy, enticing businesses to the region.

“We would like to have enough [power] to supply 3,000 homes,” Ms. Roethel said of the project.

That goal hinges on whether the river is flowing with enough volume and speed to turn the turbines fast enough to produce electricity.

“How fast the water is going will dictate how much power the turbines will put out,” Ms. Roethel said, adding that if there isn’t enough energy, the project won’t go forward.

Last week the town council sent a letter informing the New York Power Authority of the town’s intent.

“Initially it seems like we have the proper water flow,” Town Supervisor James W. Armstrong said.

Establishing hydroelectric power would require investment up front, and the town won’t be able to foot the bill for the project on its own.

Ms. Roethel said the town will seek funding from federal and state sources, but is also open to including a private developer in the project.

The only requirement, Ms. Roethel said, is the town wants the power to stay local, to help residents and attract new growth.

“If we can offer low-cost power,” Ms. Roethel said, “it will be an attraction for businesses. We’re really in the initial stages and we’re making a lot of progress.”

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