Historic Dam may be reused for hydroelectric
Hydroelectric proposal for historic Solitude Dam
Thursday, February 14, 2008
High Bridge, NJ
by Sue Sharpe
A group that wants the borough to repair, rather than breach, Solitude Dam is thinking ‘green,’ hoping to help re-establish a once-active hydroelectric power plant that could bring revenue into the borough. Tonight, Borough Council will vote on a resolution to explore the idea when it meets at 7:30 at the firehouse.
The dam, part of the 140-acre Lake Solitude property, once powered the Taylor-Wharton steel mill and even some High Bridge homes, according to Bill Honachefsky Jr. of the Union Forge Heritage Association. With alternative energy initiatives gaining momentum across the county and state, he believes that the time is right to use the dam for its original purpose. ‘Reinstituting hydroelectric power is a logical choice,’ he said.
In 2005 the state Department of Environmental Protection ordered the borough to bring the 42-foot-high structure up to current standards or open the dam and let the river flow unimpeded. Council is revisiting a 2001 decision for remediation and must either begin repairs or request a breaching permit by August to avoid being fined.
To create hydroelectric power, falling water from a dam’s spillway is used to turn a propeller-like turbine that rotates a metal shaft in a generator, creating electricity. Power lines from the generator carry the electricity to its intended destination. The amount of power created depends on water flow and the height of the drop.
According to Ed Smith, chief of staff to state Assemblyman Mike Doherty, much of this infrastructure is already in place at Solitude Dam, making it attractive to a potential financial partner who could help repair the dam, build the necessary equipment and sell the electricity it creates. ‘It’s probably the only standing dam in the state with a hydroelectric port,’ said Mr. Smith, who grew up in Lebanon Township.
He met with Mr. Honachefsky and borough officials on Feb. 6 to discuss reusing the dam and is enthusiastic about the prospect. ‘It combines economics and ecology,’ he said, creating electricity without carbon dioxide emissions and saving a lake ecosystem that’s existed for more than 100 years. ‘You have a historical hamlet with a steel plant that used to make cannonballs for the Revolution, and a pristine setting with a dam that’s got problems,’ he said. ‘Here’s an opportunity where everyone wins.’
Mayor Mark Desire said that the resolution, if adopted, will show potential partners that High Bridge is serious about pursuing hydroelectric power. He also encourages residents to attend the Feb. 28 council meeting, where state and borough officials and experts will discuss the dam and answer questions from the public. A larger, town-wide meeting will also be held at a later date.
© 2008 The Hunterdon Democrat