Changing Currents for West Virginia Dam

One West Virginia dam has seen a lot of changes in the past few years.

Rutland, Vermont – December 20, 2002 [SolarAccess.com] Catamount Energy Corp., a developer, owner, and operator of wind energy projects has closed on the sale of its 80 MW West Virginia hydro facility – the Summersville Hydro Project located on the Gauley River – to CHI Energy Inc. This sale will help Catamount direct their efforts toward wind power while helping to diversify CHI’s Renewable Energy portfolio. “This sale accomplishes a major milestone in Catamount’s plan to rebalance its portfolio, pay down debt and focus on the wind energy sector for future growth,” said Bruce Peacock, a managing director of Catamount. Nearly 40 stories high, the Summersville Dam is the second largest dam east of the Mississippi. Originally built by the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers for flood control, it was retrofitted in 1999 with two 40 MW turbines supplied by IMPSA International for hydropower capacity. CHI, the new owners of the Summersville hydro project, have extensive experience with Renewable Energy and, in particular, hydropower. CHI was acquired in 2000 by Enel Green Power, the renewables subsidiary of Enel of Italy. Enel in turn acquired Energia Global International (EGI). Together CHI and EGI currently own, operate or are constructing 88 Renewable Energy facilities in the U.S., Canada and Latin America. They range in size from 0.4 to 49 MW, for a total capacity of approximately 500 MW. “Adding Summersville to our portfolio is a natural extension of CHI’s strategy to create and expand a diversified portfolio of renewable generation assets in the Americas,” said Chris Hocker, CHI’s senior Vice President. “We started out back in 1986 exclusively in small hydro. However, we now own 90 MW of operating wind power and 23 MW of operating biomass, and the average size of new additions to our portfolio has increased in step with our increasing ability to build or acquire them. I should add, that through our parent company Enel, we also are involved in the expansion of more than 100 MW of geothermal power in Central America.” According to Hocker, there are at least 20,000 MW of potential hydropower in dams scattered throughout the U.S. that have not been tapped into. The permitting process to retrofit a dam is an arduous one however, leaving many dams in their original flood-control capacity. Even once installed, hydropower itself can offer its own particular challenges. “Like most hydro owners in the U.S., CHI has been affected by the drought conditions in most of the country over the past two years,” said Hocker. “Most of our assets are run-of-the-river, so less water means less generation, which means less revenue. Adverse weather events like drought is one of the reasons we are diversified, both geographically and technologically — diversification mitigates the impact of regional weather.”
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