“Hydropower has a very promising future in Kentucky and this entire region. Non-utility generation has had a difficult time gaining a foothold across the state, due to low power rates associated with coal but, now that coal is not as low cost as in the past, independent producers are finally able to compete with utility wholesale prices.

“Kentucky has been blessed with plenty of rainfall that is expected to increase in the future with climate change. And hydropower will play a real important role in the transition away from coal and to clean energy sources. Hydropower is less threatening to utility and coal interests because it is the renewable that has been around and familiar for hundreds of years, going back to the days when each little town had a waterpower grist mill, and some utilities have had hydroelectric plants that have been here for a century.

“Hydropower in Kentucky is leading the way in this transition by working with utilities on things like interconnection specifications and power purchase contracts, which will make it easier for the other renewables to come into Kentucky and get hooked into the grid.”

Under the guidance of AHA, Berea College was the first higher education institution in the US to complete construction of a hydroelectric generating plant, when the Matilda Hamilton Fee project was placed in service during September 2021.  Located at Lock and Dam 12 on the Kentucky River near Ravenna, it is first new small hydroelectric project built in the state for 94 years.

The project’s financial returns will help Berea College with its mission to provide tuition-free education to low-income students and has also provided an educational opportunity for students to see renewable energy being produced in Appalachia, in the heart of coal country.

Berea College is building on the success of the Matilda Hamilton Fee by partnering with AHA again to build a second hydropower plant upstream at Lock and Dam 14 near Heidelberg in Lee County. New equipment options and design concepts are available, allowing Lock 14 to produce 30 percent more power. The new project will still incorporate many important features demonstrated at Lock 12, such as submersible turbine-generators and construction in the abandoned lock chamber to eliminate the need for a large cofferdam.

Unlike the powerhouse at Lock 12, the new powerhouse will employ a submerged horizontal trash rack, with the upper pool being maintained with a movable spillway so there is no part of the powerhouse visible above the lock chamber. The spillway can be lowered to allow the river to flush downstream any debris that builds up.

The powerhouse will contain six Voith StreamDiver submersible turbine-generator units with total output of 3030 kilowatts. The StreamDiver units will be mounted horizontally so the water can travel straight through, as opposed to the vertical units used at Lock 12.  This change in the turbine mounting from vertical to horizontal will reduce the amount of concrete needed for the powerhouse by 60 percent.

Lock 14 project should take about two years to build and be producing power by May 2024.