Hydro power may come to vets home, Pownal tannery site
By Patrick McArdle
STAFF WRITER | June 16,2013
BENNINGTON — As he moves closer to reviving hydroelectric power at the former Vermont Tissue Mill, the co-owner of Carbon Zero is looking at selling power to the Vermont Veterans Home and installing a potential second site at the former tannery in Pownal.
Bill Scully, who also owns two local restaurants and Powers Market in North Bennington, said he had signed an agreement about a week ago that will allow him to develop a hydro project at the tannery site.
While it’s still early in the process, Scully said the site is exciting because it’s much larger than the dam site he’s developing in North Bennington on the Walloomsac River, so the potential for electric generation is greater.
At the former Vermont Tissue Mill in North Bennington, which Scully bought in 2009, he has been working to revive the hydroelectric generation which once powered the plant’s own operations. The project was recently granted federal permits, though Scully said a few small processes must be completed before it can be brought online.
Because he is not planning to use the building as a mill, the site is expected to generate much more electricity than it will use. That allows Carbon Zero to sell electricity from a renewable source with low carbon emissions to other customers.
Scully appeared at the Vermont Veterans Home last week to discuss the possibility of selling power to the only state-owned nursing home for veterans in Vermont.
Last year, the state completed an $11 million project that updated the home’s heating and cooling systems to use geothermal energy, which has already made the home much greener.
But while the home uses much less heating oil, the new system, which includes temperature controls in individual rooms, has increased the home’s electricity use. Buying power that’s generated by a local hydroelectric system would help the home reduce its carbon footprint.
Joseph Krawczyk Jr., a retired Army colonel, former state legislator and current chairman of the Bennington Select Board, invited Scully to talk about the possibility of the home buying power in front of the home’s board of trustees.
Krawczyk is also chairman of that board.
As the leader of the Select Board, Krawczyk supported an agreement reached in January for the town to buy electricity from Carbon Zero. The agreement will not change the cost of electricity for the town but will reduce Bennington’s carbon emissions.
The proposed agreement with the veterans home would similarly be cost-neutral but would mean the home is getting most of its power from green sources — geothermal for heating and cooling, and hydro power for electricity.
After the meeting, Scully said the Pownal project would be interesting to develop because of its proximity and connections to three states: Vermont, Massachusetts and New York. The agreement gives Carbon Zero three years to conduct feasibility studies.
If it moves forward, Scully said it could involve cleaning up polychlorinated biphenyl, or PCB, pollutants at the site. Studies need to show that the hydroelectric generation could be profitable enough to pay for the cleanup.
“Which is what we’re hoping for, but there’s a lot of testing and a lot of numbers to run before we get there,” he said.
At the Pownal site, Scully has partnered with a local resident, Dennis Candelora, who has been developing his own hydroelectric projects in that town.
Krawczyk said he hoped to have an decision for Scully on whether the veterans home will buy electricity after the next trustees meeting in August.