RAVENNA, Ky. (BC Public Relations) – Berea College is the first higher education institution in the country to complete construction of a hydroelectric power station, located at Lock and Dam 12 on the Kentucky River near Ravenna, Ky. The demonstration Small Scale The project produces on average about half of the electricity the College uses on an annual basis, further reducing the school’s carbon footprint.
“The hydropower plant shows that local green initiatives like this can be financially feasible and create reliable sources of income and acceptable rates of return on investment,” said Berea College President Lyle Roelofs. “At the same time, it shows our students and everyone else both the College’s commitment to environmental sustainability and the viability of advanced renewable energy technologies.
Completed in late May, the plant will supply energy to hundreds of Jackson Energy Cooperative customers. Additionally, the plant will create new learning opportunities for Berea College students while helping fulfill the college’s commitment to environmental sustainability.
The $ 10.2 million energy project, named the Matilda Hamilton Fee hydroelectric station in honor of the first “first lady” and co-founder of Berea College, is the result of a collaboration with Appalachian Hydro Associates (AHA), who provided the engineering and regulatory expertise necessary to complement it.
Other entities involved in the project include the Kentucky River Authority, Jackson Energy Cooperative, Wright Concrete & Construction of Pikeville, Kleinschmidt Group and Xylem.
Berea College arranged the funding for the project, investing a portion of its own funds and also using Federal and Kentucky New Markets tax credits and investment tax credits with the help of key Community financial partners. Ventures Corporation; Midwest Revolving Capital Fund; Community impact fund; Bank of the United States, NA; Chase Bank and Hardscuffle, Inc.
“This project benefits from world-class engineering from AHA, Kleinschmidt and Xylem, and forward-thinking financial partners who share a common vision for a more sustainable future,” said Justice Wilson II, General Counsel of Berea College . “We are very grateful to everyone involved, including the Kentucky River Authority and our directors, who have been very supportive from the start. Without these partnerships and support, this environmentally friendly project would not have been possible.
AHA has created a new model of hydropower plant that makes development financially viable by solving a number of problems posed by conventional hydropower dams [SEE FACT SHEET]. The plant operates using submersible turbogenerators developed by Xylem in an abandoned navigation lock. The Lock 12 power plant contains five submersible generators, each producing 528 kilowatts, for a total plant size of 2.64 megawatts. The electricity produced is sold to Jackson Energy Cooperative at a reduced rate.
“This is a response to climate change,” said David Brown Kinloch, president of the AHA. “It is clean and renewable energy. We will remove approximately 11,000 tonnes of carbon dioxide from the air each year.
In addition, the demonstration project is the first hydropower plant in the country to use variable speed technology. Borrowed from wind power, variable speed drives allow turbines to operate at maximum efficiency. With this project and plans to build other hydropower plants in the future, Berea College’s carbon footprint will be more than fully offset.
“Berea College’s commitment to environmental sustainability inspires us to demonstrate renewable and carbon-free energy production approaches to students and the region,” said President Roelofs. “And our commitment to Appalachian communities is exemplified by the local workforce used to build the plant, as well as the property taxes generated for schools in Estill County.”
The area around Lock and Dam 12 has been upgraded to include a pavilion with picnic tables for the benefit of local residents and portage for kayakers on the river.
The income generated by the project will go into the general fund of Berea College to support the mission of educating students with limited financial means. “We are happy that the money, the investment, is being used to teach students who otherwise would not be able to go to college,” said Robert Fairchild, vice president of the AHA. “We also believe in the mission of Berea College.”