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Q&A:?Engineers explain process

April 16, 2012
The Marietta Times

David Frantz is project manager for the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers Huntington District Hydroelectric Program.

Belinda Weikle is a hydraulic engineer and technical lead engineer for hydroelectric projects for the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers Huntington District.

Hydroelectric power plants are being constructed on several dams in the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers Huntington District. And Corps project manager David Frantz, technical lead engineer Belinda Weikle and former hydro power coordinator Ken Halstead say more are on the horizon.

Q: How many hydro power plants are currently located within the Huntington District?

A: Frantz: There are two under construction, one at the Captain Anthony Meldahl Lock and Dam (near Felicity, Ohio), and another at the Willow Island Locks and Dam north of Marietta. In addition there's an existing hydroelectric facility at the Belleville Lock and Dam (south of Parkersburg).

And the R.C. Byrd Lock and Dam just south of Gallopolis is also in the pre-license study phase for a possible hydro power facility.

Q: Why is there so much interest in developing these hydroelectric facilities?

A: Frantz: It's the economics of energy. As electricity and coal prices rise or fall, the demand for hydroelectric projects is directly impacted. Power companies are putting hundreds of millions of dollars into contracts to build these hydro power facilities.

The total cost varies, depending on what facilities are already in place at these dam sites. Some may just require a little modification, while others need more work. And some dams were designed so that hydroelectric power plants could be built on site.

Bluestone Lock and Dam (on the New River) in the Huntington District was built for hydroelectric power.

Weikle: Bluestone was only authorized for hydro power, but it was never developed there because in the past it was cheaper to fuel power plants with coal. As we see the price to operate coal-fired plants increase, it makes hydro power more feasible.

Q: How long does it take to build a hydro power plant onto an existing lock and dam?

A: Weikle: It's about eight to 10 years from initial development to completion.

Sam Shawver conducted this interview.



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