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Dam-revival firm wins prize

ASHLAND – Dozens of dams in the state are doing nothing but holding back water or sitting there looking pretty. But if an Ashland company has its way, those dams will also help power the state.

“As far as renewable energy goes, it’s a huge opportunity because these dams are already there,” said Andrew Lane, a partner at blue2green LLC. “They are there to hold back lakes and control floods. And it’s not just in New Hampshire, it’s a nationwide thing; there are all these dams that are not doing anything.”

Blue2green LLC, a dam reclamation and electricity generation company, recently won the Tory C. Marandos Foundation Entrepreneurship Challenge. Lane and Mark Brassard, partners in blue2green, received a $5,000 cash prize to go toward their business as well as membership in the Southern New Hampshire University Center for Entrepreneurship & Social Innovation.

The goal of blue2green is to convert as many dams as possible in the state to functioning hydroelectric dams.

“There are 2,500 or more dams in New Hampshire, maybe even as many as 3,000, and only a few of them are being used as hydroelectric power,” Lane said. “We came across a (Department of Energy) survey that said there were 97 (hydroelectric) sites in New Hampshire, of which 63 have existing dams on them. If they were all turned on, that would be like 1 billion kilowatt hours of electricity per year, and that’s all going to waste.”

The Granite State Hydropower Association represents the owners of 50 power-producing dams with a total peak capacity of 50 megawatts that produce 200 million kilowatt-hours of power a year. All are “run-of-the-river” projects that hold back little or no water but depend on available river flow.

According to Kurt Finemore, assistant chief engineer for the state’s dam division, the 60 dams include small dams that can be used for micro-hydroelectric projects, in which most or all of the power would be consumed by the owner. About 12 to 20 would be larger scale hydro projects.

“What they are focusing on, rehabilitation of existing situations, is certainly a great idea,” Finemore said. “One of the biggest challenges for hydro is making it economically feasible and that’s what they are working on.”

Lane said the cost of renovating an existing hydroelectric dam varies depending on the project. But he said, for the past four or five years, they have been renovating an old mill on the Pemigewasset River in Ashland.

Lane and his partners invested a total of $90,000 to refurbish the generators, add transformers and make other updates. They then sold the power that was produced directly to the town of Ashland. The project brings in about $100,000 a year, Lane said.

So far, that money has been used to renovate the mill itself, which now is home to offices for a few small businesses and several artists.

Lane said going forward they will use the grant money they just received to do “due diligence” on the 97 identified sites to make sure they are viable for hydroelectric. Lane notes that some of the dams they know already are small, so they may work on packaging those together to make it worthwhile to investors.

There is also the possibility going forward of getting some state-owned dams online and then renting them from the state, thus earning the state some revenue.

In the meantime, Lane said, they are also trying to woo investors and find people who have dams that could be used for hydroelectric.

However, another challenge the company faces, said Finemore, is current legislation that dictates power companies have to pay more for hydroelectric than other forms of energy.

“The biggest challenge is that’s it’s going to take a significant policy effort and a desire to develop hydro,” he said.

The SNHU grant was made possible by a $100,000 donation from Cosmos and Lynda Marandos and their daughter, Tara, all of Nashua, in memory of their late son and brother, Tory.

The gift created the “Tory C. Marandos Foundation” and will be an endowed fund that will provide a cash award for an annual winner of the “Tory C. Marandos Foundation – Entrepreneurship Challenge.”

All active businesses and potential start-up businesses in New Hampshire, with less than three years in business and less than $1 million in annual gross revenue, were eligible to participate.

Tory Marandos was the general manager of two of the Foxy Lady Gentlemen’s Clubs in New Bedford, Mass., and Providence, RI. He died on Dec. 12, 2006, during a shooting, at the age of 30.