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Gouverneur delays power purchase agreement

GOUVERNEUR — The village Board of Trustees held off Tuesday on signing a purchase agreement for electricity produced at its hydropower plant in the hopes of getting a better deal or using the power for its own purposes.

“We have a unique system that could distribute power throughout the village,” Trustee Charles W. Newvine said.

The village’s hydroelectric plant on the Oswegatchie River produces enough power for village streetlights, the municipal building and the water plant.

The village sells the excess for 2 cents per kilowatt hour. When it has to purchase power, it pays on average $3.30 per kilowatt hour.

The rate often is high because of the amount of electricity the village uses and at what hours.

“It’s almost robbery,” Mr. Newvine said. “The village is getting the short end of the stick.”

Mr. Newvine would prefer to build up the efficiency of the plant and use the extra power for the village sewage treatment plant, which has monthly electric bills of $7,000 to $14,000.

“It’s in our best interest to see that hydro plant succeed,” he said.

If there were enough power, it could be sold to others in the village and town, including Gouverneur Hospital, Cives Steel, the Kinney warehouse and Riverside Iron, Mr. Newvine said.

The idea also is favored by Town Councilman Harold E. Lacey, who wants the hydro plant modernized for the benefit of the community.

“The end goal is to have municipal power for the town and village, but you have to start small,” he said.

However, there are obstacles, including the potential upgrade cost, which has not been determined, and the lack of a Federal Energy Regulatory Agency license for the plant.

The plant was built in 1926 and began operating in 1927. It was connected to the power grid in 1951.

FERC issued an exemption from licensing for the project April 15, 1983, but revoked it Dec. 9, 1987, after the village chose not to pursue a construction project when bids came in higher than expected.

The work permitted by FERC under the 1983 exemption would have increased the capacity from 200 kilowatts to 460 kilowatts, which would have been enough to at least partially power the sewage treatment plant.

The village would like to address the plant’s needs again, but has to settle relicensing issues with FERC before any construction.

“Until we get that license, we cannot do anything, in my opinion,” Mayor Ronald P. McDougall said.

Without a power purchase agreement signed by April 30, the village will not be paid for its excess power that goes into the grid, Mr. Newvine said.

The village also is talking with National Grid about a partial takeover of the village’s antiquated lighting system but has to factor in what it will pay for electricity if that happens, he said.

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