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Local Hydroelectric Plant Important in Growing Industry

February 21, 2011

NEW MARTINSVILLE - With hydroelectric power use in North America on the rise, the New Martinsville/Hannibal Hydroelectric Plant and Voith Hydro in nearby Monroe County both continue to play large roles in a growing industry.

The New Martinsville Hydroelectric Plant has been using the Ohio River to generate electricity in an environmentally acceptable manner since 1988.

The plant is capable of producing 18.8 megawatts per hour on each unit, for a total of 37.6 megawatts per hour under ideal conditions.

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That power is then sold to Monongahela Power Co. for distribution on the nation's electric grid.

Despite the fact the 23-year-old New Martinsville plant is currently dealing with some maintenance issues, the facility is still making a profit and hydroelectric power is the way to go, according to Chuck Stora, who has been the plant's manager since 1995.

"It's still putting out pretty good megawatts ... but after 20 years you start to see that wear and tear," Stora said. "Our average budget is 209,000 megawatts a year ... but we only got 198,000" in 2010, he said.

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Is the Upper Ohio Valley taking advantage of the Ohio River through the creation of hydroelectric power?

Yes, but probably not enough. New Martinsville's hydro plant is the only such plant in the region, and the city of New Martinsville says it makes a profit off the electricity generated there. As with most forms of alternative energy, the initial costs tend to be high and the pay-back time long.

Stora said other than some down time due to maintenance issues at the plant, there was a drier than normal summer, which affects the river flow and how many megawatts are generated at the plant.

"But you always have that - that's a trend that comes and goes ... you can have real good years where you have good flow all year," he added.

Although Stora believes the nation should use all aspects of every technology to generate power, including coal, gas and wind, he continues to support anything that is going to take the pollutants out of the air.

"They're building five new hydro plants on the river right now," he said, noting none are in the local area.

"Hydro has always been one of the best renewable energies ... We use the same water in our plant that they are going to use in every plant all the way down the river," Stora added.

The New Martinsville plant generates enough electricity to serve seven towns the size of New Martinsville, which has a population of approximately 7,000 residents.

The New Martinsville plant design uses the natural flow of the Ohio River to generate electricity without changing the ecology of the river. Unlike fossil-fueled power plants, the New Martinsville facility creates no air or water pollution and consumes no water.

The plant is constantly cleaning the water of the Ohio River as well, as screens were set up in the river to prevent debris from entering the hydro turbines. A giant trash rake with an 80-foot telescopic boom that extends to the river bottom is used to remove debris from the river.

That debris is then placed in containers to be hauled away or recycled.

Voith Hydro, meanwhile, is a generator stator assembly facility, servicing hydro plants. Voith is located in Monroe County, and manufactures parts for generators to be used at "run-of-the-river hydroelectric facilities" operated by American Municipal Power Inc.

According to Mark Nadolny, Voith's site manager, approximately 40 people are currently employed at the 32,400-square-foot facility, which started production in early 2010. Voith is located at the former Ormet Rolling Mill facility.

The stators that the company manufactures for the river projects measure 30 feet by 10 feet and weigh roughly128 tons. Once manufactured, they are put on barges and shipped to the locations they need to go.

"We have an order for 11 units (stators) that are all going on the Ohio River," said Nadolny. He said the industry is picking up speed.

"We're busy ... the factory is busy, busy," he added.

Hydropower remains by far the largest source of renewable energy in the world, and represents about 8 percent of all power in the U.S. and more than 90 percent of all the renewable power generated in the U.S. Hydro provides more than 16 times as much energy as wind and solar power combined, according to Hydro Review.

Hydropower also supplies almost two-thirds of Canada's power, making it the world's largest hydropower producer, representing 13 percent of global output.

The U.S. is the world's second largest exporter of hydropower.

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