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April 11, 2017

Windsor Locks canal may be considered for hydropower

Can the Windsor Locks Canal provide electricity to the town from hydropower?

Suffield and Windsor Locks officials want to know and have authorized a team of engineers to prepare a hydropower feasibility study and an assessment of funding needs to turn any plan into reality.

After filing joint applications last year, the towns were awarded two grants to fund the projects, one by the Connecticut Trust for Historic Preservation and the second by the state Historic Preservation Office. The grant funds will cover 100 percent of the two studies’ cost.

The capital needs assessment will look at such things as the condition of the locks, sedimentation, the condition of the canal’s bottom and side slopes, and the strength of the masonry walls, the aqueduct, and the head gate.

The hydropower study will determine if the existing hydropower infrastructure can be restored and upgraded to produce renewable electricity. The project went out to bid last fall and was awarded to the engineering firm of Fuss & O’Neill.

“We are very excited about moving forward with these studies,” First Selectman Christopher Kervick said. “Not only is this an important step in preserving this historic and cultural treasure, but the sale of hydropower could allow the canal to become a financially sustainable source of its own salvation.”

A 2014 survey of potential hydropower sites within Connecticut that the state Department of Energy and Environmental Protection commissioned identified the canal as having the potential to generate more than 28 megawatts of electricity if the Enfield Dam is restored.

“While environmental considerations make dam restoration unlikely,” Kervick said, “new renewable energy initiatives such as net-metering, virtual net-metering, and the sale of renewable energy credits could make the production of even a fraction of that energy potential economically viable.”

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