Dream of power plant at Parkhill dam moves forward — slowly — in Cambridge
April 08, 2010
By Kevin Swayze, Record staff
CAMBRIDGE – Parkhill dam could start earning its keep again within five years, the Grand River Conservation Authority hopes.
Thursday, authority board members voted to call for proposals to from hydro power experts. Whoever is hired would, at first, determine if the concrete dam is structurally sound and able to take a dynamo at the western end.
“We do want to get this moving,” said Dave Schlutz, spokesperson for the conservation authority.
In 1999, a power plant feasibility study by the authority and Cambridge-North Dumfries hydro found a power plant possible, but financially impractical at the time. Today, the province is encouraging “green” power by paying a premium rate for electricity generated by dams on 40 year contracts.
It’s estimated to cost $4.8 million to install a generating station at Parkhill. With the sweetened power rates, the project could pay for itself in five to seven years.
The authority already runs power plants at the Conestogo, Shand and Guelph Lake dams. Parkhill would be the largest, generating about 1.3 megawatts of electricity. That’s enough to power about 2,000 homes.
The Parkhill Dam was built in 1837 to create a mill pond along the Grand River at the village of Galt. That supplied a steady flow of water to power grist and textile mills along the east side of the river. The Riverbank Mill and Mill Race Park are the only remnants of the water-powered industries that employed hundreds in old Galt until the middle of the 20th century.
Thursday’s approval is the first of many steps to install an electrical generation station Parkhill. Once the conservation authority confirms the dam is sound and the final costs of installing a power plant, then a purchase-of-power contract must be negotiated with the Ontario Power Authority to confirm a guaranteed revenue stream to replay loans to build the dynamo.
Along the way, an environmental study must be completed to produce final details for the power station.
“Notification and consultation” with First Nations communities would be part of the approval process, an authority report says.