MORIAH — A hydroelectric project planned for Moriah’s old iron mines could create six to 10 permanent jobs and greatly enhance the town’s tax base.
And it may provide the town with a new highway garage as well.
The $264.1 million project would be funded by private investors, with licensing by the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission in 2014 and construction starting in 2015, according to Albany Engineering President James Besha.
Albany Engineering formed a subsidiary, Moriah Hydro Corp., to build what the firm calls the Mineville Pumped Storage Project on land now owned by the Town of Moriah near the Moriah Solid Waste Transfer Station.
The draft license application was filed with the Regulatory Commission on Oct. 4.
“We’ve had a study permit; the final license application will be submitted after Jan. 4,” Besha told the Press-Republican on Friday. “Folks want to see this as an energy source.”
‘HIGHWAY GARAGE, TOO’
The project would sell the estimated 737.6 million kilowatt-hours of annual output to the Northeast power pool.
Construction would take 30 months and employ about 100 people. A large building would be erected at the site to access the interconnected mines used for the project, and Besha said that would be turned over to the town at the end for use as a new highway garage.
The hydro facility itself would need only a 100-by-100-square-foot surface building when it’s up and running, he said.
“It’s an automated (hydroelectric) facility. Probably half a dozen to 10 people would be needed to maintain it.”
Besha said it hasn’t been decided yet if Moriah Hydro would lease the land or acquire it from the town.
WATER FROM MINES
Most of the project would be underground, using the interconnected Old Bed, New Bed, Bonanza and Harmony mines, about 4,000 feet below the surface. The powerhouse would be constructed underground, adjacent to the mines, 2,050 feet below the upper reservoir.
It would be accessible through the main shaft from the entry building at the surface.
The project would pump water from the lower mines, which are now flooded, to the upper level during periods of low demand for electricity on the Northeast grid, then would let the water flow through 15-foot-diameter penstocks to 20 pump-turbines to generate electricity during periods of high demand.
Each pump-generator can put out 260 megawatts of power, which would feed through underground cables to a National Grid high-voltage 115-kilovolt line about a mile away.
Moriah’s mines closed in 1972 and were then owned by Republic Steel Corp., with most equipment removed by 1980. The town bought the property that the hydro project would be located on from Republic Steel at the urging of then-Town Supervisor Raymond Slattery.
Part of the parcel is used now for the town’s Transfer Station, and a mostly-depleted mine-ore tailings pile sits where the project building would be constructed.
Albany Engineering first proposed the Mineville Pumped Storage Project in 1997, but it has taken until now to bring it close to fruition, Besha said.
“Hydro takes a long time. It’s not unusual to take 10 years, 15 years.”
Albany Engineering has several other hydroelectric projects in New York state, either in operation or in the application stage, including the Stuyvesant Falls hydro plant, which was just rehabilitated and turned back on by Albany Engineering after being abandoned 10 years ago.
“We do just hydroelectric projects,” Besha said. “It’s highly specialized work.”
Besha said the Mineville project would boost Moriah’s tax base, since the assessment for energy-generation projects, by federal law, is based on the value of the equipment and the land, not just the land.
Moriah Town Supervisor Thomas Scozzafava said it’s a $264 million project, and the total assessed tax base in his town is only $211 million now.
“We haven’t seen an expansion of the property-tax base in many years. This has huge significance, not just to Moriah, but to Essex County. Any new job is a benefit.
“The construction period is a benefit to the community.”
He said it’s also important that the project isn’t seeking any government grants or funding.
“Everybody wants this; it looks like it’s going to be a reality.”
The town has needed a new Highway Department garage for some time, Scozzafava said, but couldn’t afford the estimated $2 million cost to build one.
“I’m excited about this. It will also impact Moriah School District with increased school taxes (revenue). It’s great news for the community.”
He said when he was told the final license application was going in, he thought: “I guess Christmas comes early for Moriah this year.”
Email Lohr McKinstry:firstname.lastname@example.org