NASHUA NH — The city is expected to close on its acquisition of the Mine Falls Park Hydroelectric Facility in about three months — a purchase that has been nearly 30 years in the making. Once the purchase of the hydropower plant is complete, Nashua will own both of the city’s dams and hydroelectric facilities on the Nashua River. “We don’t have a set closing date yet. We are getting really close to signing a purchase and sale agreement,” said Madeleine Mineau, the city’s waterways manager who was hired in 2015, in part, to pursue the purchase of Nashua’s second hydroelectric dam. She is optimistic that the closing on the acquisition of the Mine Falls Park Hydroelectric Facility, which Nashua currently leases from Eagle Creek Renewable Energy LLC of New Jersey, will be finalized in the next three months. In December of 2015, the board of aldermen voted to purchase the dam for $4.2 million, however the official cost of the facility is still being negotiated, Mineau said on Tuesday. “We just had an on-site inspection last week and we are working out some of the maintenance issues,” she said. “We are also working out the details of the final purchase price.
The city’s other hydroelectric project at Jackson Mills is operated by Essex Power Services, Inc., which handles the maintenance, operations and administration of that city-owned facility. Once the purchase of the Mine Falls Park facility is complete, Mineau said Essex Power Services, Inc., would also oversee operations at the new plant as well. “We did decide that we wouldn’t hire city staff to do that. This would be the most cost-effective way to operate the site,” she said of contracting with Essex Power Services. State regulations currently limit what the city can do with the power at the facility. Ideally, Nashua would like to use the power for its own city facilities, but it is too large for net-metering, explained Mineau, adding there is proposed legislation that could potentially change the limitations. Nashua previously requested to intervene in pending litigation between the New Hampshire Public Utilities Commission and the Electric Distribution Utilities regarding the development of new alternative net metering tariffs for consumer generators.
Nashua’s budget for electricity is about $3.8 million, and the city consumes approximately 46,300 Megawatts of power annually. For the past year, Mineau has been working on regulatory hurdles and ongoing maintenance issues with the Mine Falls Park Hydroelectric facility. “We are getting really close to having this city-owned, but there still can be a delay,” she stressed. A study was previously conducted by H.L. Turner Group, a firm hired to assess the facility and its condition. At the time, there was an estimated $2,065,000 in repairs necessary at the plant, however the estimated net revenue in nine years is projected to range from $2.2 million to $3.7 million depending on what aldermen decide to do with the facility. According to Mineau, some of those repairs have already been completed, including the restoration of a fish lift. This week, the aldermanic budget review committee recommended converting the city’s existing expendable trust fund for operating the Jackson Mills Dam into a hydropower reserve fund that would finance emergency needs for both facilities — not just Jackson Mills. “This is a new thing for the city to own hydroelectric projects. In a way, we are all learning,” Mineau told the panel, adding more production at the facilities will result in more revenue for the city’s general fund. “There are elements that are unpredictable,” agreed Alderman Ken Siegel, Ward 9, explaining that trust funds are important to cover unforeseen expenses.
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