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    Second hydroelectric power plant coming to Kentucky River to benefit Berea College

    May 16, 2022 - Bill Estep, Lexington Herald-Leader


      Construction is set to begin soon on a hydroelectric plant at a defunct lock on the Kentucky River that will enable Berea College to offset all its electricity use.

      Berea became the first college in the nation to finish a hydropower project last year with the start-up of a plant at Lock 12 in Estill County.

      That project produces enough power to account for about half of the electricity the college uses.

      The new project at Lock 14, in Lee County, will produce enough power to more than offset the rest of the college’s electricity use, according to Berea and its partner, Appalachian Hydro Associates.

      And that will cancel all of the college’s contribution to carbon emissions from coal-fired power plants, which contribute to damaging climate change.

      “With these two projects, we are not just teaching our students about the value of renewable, carbon-free energy generation,” Berea President Lyle Roelofs said. “These projects demonstrate our commitment to Appalachian communities as we deliver on our commitment to mindful and sustainable living.”

      Project details

      Lock 14 is a few miles downstream from where the three forks of the Kentucky River come together in Lee County to form the main channel.

      It was the last in a series of locks and dams built on the Kentucky River between 1836 and 1917 to improve navigation from Central and Eastern Kentucky to the Ohio River. People moved coal, timber and agricultural goods downstream from Eastern Kentucky and brought manufactured goods back up the river.

      By the time the system was finished, however, railroads, trucks and cars had eclipsed the river for trade and travel.

      Locks 5 through 14 were decommissioned in 1990, according the Kentucky River Authority.

      Appalachian Hydro Associates will oversee the construction of a plant in the unused chamber of Lock 14 to generate power as water passes through six submerged turbine-generators.

      The company got the green light to begin construction last week from the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission, said David Brown Kinloch, president of Appalachian Hydro Associates.

      The plan is to have the plant online by May 2024.

      With a different design and technology than Lock 12, the Lock 14 plant will be able to produce more electricity, in part by reducing constraints on the water flow through the turbine-generators.

      The Lock 14 hydropower plant will be able to produce 3 megawatts of electricity, enough to power 1,600 homes on average, Brown Kinloch said.

      The new design won’t use oil or hydraulic fluid in the turbine-generators, so there won’t be any chance of contaminants getting into the river, Brown Kinloch said.

      “This is a really, really clean system with respect to the environment,” he said.

      The new power plant also will have an improved system for catching trash and logs to keep them from damaging the turbine-generators.

      Economic benefits

      Lee County Judge-Executive Chuck Caudill said the Lock 14 project will provide jobs during construction, double the size of a county park at the site and boost property-tax revenue for the county.

      “I think this is going to be great for the community,” Caudill said.

      Through the use of investment tax credits, the ultimate cost to Berea College to build the station will be about $4.5 million, Roelofs said.

      The project is projected to be a money-maker for Berea, creating a return on investment of 9% or greater through the sale of electricity, Roelofs said.

      Berea will sell the electricity from the plant to Jackson Energy at a discount, so it benefits customers of the utility as well.

      “We can do something that’s operationally sustainable, we can be a model for other organizations, and we can do something that will benefit the economy in the counties that have been hampered by national changes in the economy,” Roelofs said.

      ©2022 Lexington Hearld-Leader. Visit kentucky.com. Distributed by Tribune Content Agency, LLC.


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