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Glen Ferris Hydroelectric Facility

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    It's become a late spring and summer tradition. Every year since 1986, The State Journal has devoted a section of the newspaper to highlight 55 people, places, businesses, traditions and events that make the Mountain State a special place to live.

Kanawha River power plant marries old with new

By JIM ROSS jross@statejournal.com

GLEN FERRIS — There's a constant battle between old and new when it comes to development. The old often must give way to the new. That's not what happened at an old hydroelectric power plant on the Kanawha River at the Fayette County town of Glen Ferris.

There, Brookfield Renewable Energy Partners, a Canadian company with power generation stations in Canada, the United States and Brazil, took a chance on the old power plant that once provided electricity to nearby industries.

Today, the plant's turbines are being restored so they can pump electricity into the regional grid.

Brookfield is spending about $25 million to renovate the old plant. It kept the old dam and the old buildings, but just about everything else was removed and either upgraded or replaced. Keeping the old dam at Kanawha Falls and restoring the old buildings was more than an aesthetic decision. It allowed the company to avoid the long process of obtaining permits for new construction.

But what works, works.

The plant was closed by its previous owners in 2003 after more than 100 years of operation. It then underwent a significant renovation project, which finished earlier this year.

All eight turbine generators — two large ones and six smaller ones — were removed and shipped to Michigan for upgrading. A new access bridge, upgrade of the overhead cranes in the two powerhouses and the installation of new step-up transformers, generators and controls were included in the project.

"Restoring and modernizing the Glen Ferris Hydroelectric Facility's eight turbine units is key to bringing the plant back into full production by the fall of 2012. All eight units are being restored to their original capacity and converted for compatibility with today's transmission grid," said David Barnhart, director of operations for the Mid America Regional Operations Center of Brookfield Renewable Energy Group.

The two largest generators in the plant have been rebuilt and reinstalled. The smaller units have not yet been returned to service.

And one other thing was included as part of the hydro plant project. About 15 years ago, the street lights along U.S. Route 60 in Montgomery were taken out of service. On Dec. 13, 2011, new lamps installed by Brookfield were lit for the first time.

That evening, Tom Deedy, vice president of U.S. operations for Brookfield, said the decision to restore these street lights was a natural extension of the company's investment in the Glen Ferris hydropower facility. 

"Both the lights and the hydro station played an important historical role in Glen Ferris' history, and they will now be a part of its future, too," he said.