NEHC, the New England Hydropower Company, was started in 2012 in response to an overlooked market sector within the renewable energy hydropower industry.
“I was looking to do something new and innovative in renewable energy,” CEO Michael Kerr explains. “During my research I came across the Archimedes hydro-screw turbine. It’s a piece of generating equipment used for small-scale hydropower uniquely suited to the thousands of existing low-head dams in the United States.”
The Archimedes hydro-screw is environmentally friendly, and unlike many turbines, fish friendly — when installed in a river, fish can swim through it to migrate downstream and come out on the other side, completely unharmed. It also preserves the water quality and aquatic habitats in the river.
“I came across this piece of technology in the UK, and I couldn’t believe that nobody in this country knew about it,” Kerr says. “We went to the government, the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission, and the Department of Energy. We received significant interest in response.”
In its first year of operations, NEHC established an internship program and trained students majoring in engineering and environmental studies to evaluate existing, non-powered dams for compatibility with the Archimedes hydro-screw. Over the past few years, NEHC has surveyed close to 20,000 dams in the New England states, as well as in New York, and Pennsylvania, and visited over 800 potential sites.
NEHC is a dynamic company. NEHC develops, finances, constructs, operates, and manages hydropower sites and sells the power it produces. NEHC collaborates with the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission, the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service, state water management, conservation, renewable energy, and environmental protection agencies, environmental groups and watershed authorities, cities, towns, and private individuals to acquire the licenses, consents, and approvals, necessary to generate zero-emission, environmentally-friendly electricity. The end results include new sources of local, distributed generation, the displacement of fossil fuel pollutants, and reductions in regional carbon footprints while preserving and sustaining the environment.
NEHC’s first project began producing power in March of 2017, in Meriden, Connecticut. The Meriden Project has consistently generated electricity well above original estimates. NEHC has since continued to raise money, and commenced development on a series of projects in Rhode Island, New York, and Pennsylvania.
A grant application currently pending before Pennsylvania Advanced Clean Energy (if awarded), along with local support and funding, will facilitate NEHC’s construction and operation of its first project on the Delaware and Lehigh Canal System, within the Delaware & Lehigh Valley National Historic Corridor.
By providing a new and innovative renewable energy technology, NEHC is contributing to a clean energy future that incorporates a range of methods, tailored to diverse conditions. There will never be one, be-all-end-all technology for generating zero-emission renewable energy — but now, the Archimedes hydro-screw has been recognized as a viable and valuable option.