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Maine company revitalizing Noone Falls hydroelectric facility

  • Officials from Evergreen Electric drained the Contoocook River Reservoir earlier this week to remove silt, sticks, trash and river debris as they work toward reopening the Noone Falls hydroelectric facility. Photo by Lipofsky.com—

  • Officials from Evergreen Electric drained the Contoocook River Reservoir earlier this week to remove silt, sticks, trash and river debris as they work toward reopening the Noone Falls hydroelectric facility. PhotoS by Lipofsky.com

  • Officials from Evergreen Electric drained the Contoocook River Reservoir earlier this week to remove silt, sticks, trash and river debris as they work toward reopening the Noone Falls hydroelectric facility. Photo by Lipofsky.com—

  • Officials from Evergreen Electric drained the Contoocook River Reservoir earlier this week to remove silt, sticks, trash and river debris as they work toward reopening the Noone Falls hydroelectric facility. Photo by Lipofsky.com—

  • The equipment at the Noone Falls Mill Hydro facility is being refurbished and restored by Evergreen Electric out of Casco, Maine thanks to a six-month project to get the facility operational after a three-year stretch of non-use. Staff photo by Tim Goodwin—

  • The equipment at the Noone Falls Mill Hydro facility is being refurbished and restored by Evergreen Electric out of Casco, Maine thanks to a six-month project to get the facility operational after a three-year stretch of non-use. Staff photo by Tim Goodwin—



Monadnock Ledger-Transcript
Thursday, October 11, 2018 10:48AM

After three years of sitting unused and in need of major repairs, Evergreen Electric is working to get the Noone Falls hydroelectric facility back up and running.

Evergreen, which is based out of Casco, Maine, purchased a condo space in the basement of Noone Falls, which houses the facility equipment, and inherited the rights and oversight of the dam from the Cobb family about six months ago and has been working on the project ever since.

“We just want to regenerate this hydroelectric project,” said Andrew Greco, whose family owns Evergreen. “Get it back up and running and fully functional. It wasn’t running when we bought it.”

Charlie Cobb said Wednesday that his family bought Noone Falls in 1999. At the time, Cobb said, former owner Ken King retained the rights to the facility for five years, after which the Cobbs took over running it for more than a decade. But with the facility that was built toward the end of the 19th century had issues over the years, Cobb said.

“We never had a great running facility. It would break down and needed repairs,” Cobb said. “I just didn’t have the knowledge and don’t have the time now to learn about it.”

With the family going in a different direction – converting portions of the building into condominiums – Cobb said he didn’t want to dedicate resources into getting it back up and running, especially since it had been inoperable for the last three years.

Cobb said he approached a number of individuals in the hydroelectric field, and Evergreen was just finishing up another project in the area, Pine Valley Hydro in Milford and Wilton.

“This was a project that was just waiting to be revitalized,” Greco said.

Peterborough Town Administrator Rodney Bartlett said hydroelectric is an industry that the town supports and pointed to the recently completed Bell Mill Dam on Nubanusit Brook and two other facilities in West Peterborough.

“It has finally gotten to the point where it’s financially viable to do,” Bartlett said.

Bartlett said the town purchases power from net metering groups in the winter months, but gets cheaper rates elsewhere in the warmer months.

“It’s certainly a source of power that’s a positive,” Bartlett said. “It’s green, renewable and a clean source of energy.”

Matt Lundsted, board chair and Peterborough representative for the Contoocook and North Branch River Local Advisory Committee, hasn’t seen the specifics of the project, but encourages all uses of the river.

“Hydro power and running mills is what New England’s old economy was built around,” Lundsted said Wednesday.

He said  from the nature side of things, that ideally nothing in the river is best.

“But if you can use the energy of the water and generate electricity instead of coal burning or oil burning, that’s a positive," he said.

Earlier this week, Evergreen spent multiple days draining and refilling the Contoocook River Reservoir. Greco said because the facility had been out of use for so many years there was a tremendous amount of silt, sticks, trash and river debris build up to clear. So the project included draining an area of water in order to remove the material.

Evergreen then refilled the area and opened the gate on the opposite side of the river from the Noone Falls building to rid the area of the materials, Greco said. Once it is cleared out and facility is up and running, the river and dam will ideally operate as it did prior to its shutdown.

“It’s like pulling the drain plug at the bottom of your bath tub, eventually everything goes out,” Greco said.

The project has also included surveying and studying the river and its flow, as well as getting all the required federal and state licensing and permits in order. Work inside the facility has been ongoing for the last few months. Greco said the goal is to reuse and refurbish as much of the original equipment as possible.

“Generally rehabbing of an existing facility is well received,” Bartlett said.

The way the system works, Greco said, is that water flows through a grate in the reservoir through the eight-foot diameter pipe that goes under the access road behind Noone Falls and into the building. Inside the building, the pipe turns into two smaller pipes. The water flows down through a turbine at the bottom. The turbines spine on a shaft that also spins a pulley system connected to a pair of generators to collect the energy.

“We’re trying to put the pieces back together,” Greco said.

Greco said the hope is to have the facility up and running in a few weeks. The energy all goes to Eversource through the net metering program, and Evergreen has contracts to sell electricity produced to the towns of Derry and Hinsdale. At full capacity, Greco said, the hydroelectric facility will produce 150,000 watts continuously or 150 kilowatt hours per hour.

According to Greco, once the project is up and running, the water intake area will be monitored daily, and even cleared a few times a day this fall as leaves drop into the water. The removal of silt and river debris will happen on a more regular basis to avoid getting into the facility and damaging the equipment. The hope is that the rebuilt facility won’t need much outside of routine maintenance for decades.

“This should run for 50 years before it needs to be taken apart again,” Greco said.

In addition to the projects at Noone Falls and Pine Valley, Evergreen also has facilities in Goffstown and Rochester.

“We’re all about the longevity of the project,” Greco said. “And there are hundreds of these projects that are just sitting and waiting to b e redone.”

Cobb said it will end up being “a win-win for both of us.” With giving up the rights and oversight of the dam, Cobb said, they will not have the burden of state and local taxes for the facility. “That was a big part of the negotiations for us,” he said.

Cobb said he’s glad someone is taking over the facility that will be able to keep up with the maintenance and reap the benefits.

“I like the whole concept of hydro and clean energy,” Cobb said. “And they’re putting a large amount of money into and taking a long-term approach.”