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Company scraps plans to put turbines in river

VICKSBURG — A company has dropped plans to sink power-generating turbines in the Mississippi River.

Retired Brig. Gen. Robert Crear has told a Vicksburg civic club that Free Flow Power will place the turbines on existing dams, such as recreational lakes maintained by the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers. Crear is a member of the Boston-based company’s board of directors.

“Looking at the economics, we decided to give up the hydrokinetic business,” Crear said.

Crear said the turbines were put in “mothballs” and smaller-scale projects on Arkabutla, Enid, Grenada and Sardis lakes in north Mississippi were on the way to being permitted by federal regulators.

The Vicksburg Post reports that the company originally planned the turbines to sit on pylons and spin like propellers at the bottom of the river between Cairo, Ill. and New Orleans, including Vicksburg and Natchez in Mississippi.

The company had said each turbine would produce 40 kw of power, about the same as home generators.

Crear said the company and potential manufacturers from Germany reviewed data from the historic 2011 flood on the river and near-record low-water marks set in 2012, which exposed millions of cubic feet of sediment deposited by the flood. Differences in regulatory rates in Europe and the United States played a role the investors pulling out and the company changing course on the entire project, he said.

“In Europe, there’s one regulatory body setting the rates,” Crear said. “In the United States, each municipality sets the rates. So, to them, they just couldn’t see how they could be guaranteed a proper rate to allow them to bank on their investment.”

Turbines planned in the four Corps lakes — all strung to existing flood control dams — are smaller in scale and capacity. Together, they would produce 20 kw of power and are on track to be licensed by the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission in 2015, Crear said.

“We try to save money in terms of cost,” Crear said. “We don’t have an unlimited amount of money. With consultants, you end up paying, paying, paying. So, we developed our own expertise, in engineering and in regulatory.”

Four other smaller turbines are planned along the Tennessee-Tombigbee Waterway in northeast Mississippi, which would generate 7.9 kw of power, according to Free Flow’s website. Other company projects are on river systems in the Midwest, including the Ohio, Monongahela and Allegheny rivers.


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