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Potsdam hydro project delayed again

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POTSDAM — The village’s West Dam Hydro Plant has yet to generate a single watt, despite projected completion in July, August and September.

The $4.7 million project, which began in 2008 and was originally slated for completion by the next year, has been beset by constant delays.

Last month, village officials were finally ready to announce a date for the start of testing: Sept. 27. Trouble setting up the computerized control system meant this date came and went. Testing has not yet begun.

Village Administrator David H. Fenton said the issue has been resolved and the opening is close, although he did not give a date.

“We’re not completely there yet but we’ve made really good progress in the last week or two,” he said.

The village has to finish setting up the control panel and testing its connection to the main power grid. Once this is complete, he said, the power will be ready to flow.

“Those are really it. Once we’re happy with the control system and National Grid is happy with what protection systems that they see then we’ll be ready to test it out and hopefully put it online not too long after that,” he said.

Although the frequent delays have inflated the cost of what was once supposed to be a $3.5 million project, Mr. Fenton assured that none of the money has come from taxpayers.

The first $3.5 million came from a bond that the village will be paying off until 2027. The rest comes from revenue from the village’s other hydroelectric plant and money from Brookfield Renewable Power.

“So far we’ve put no tax money into it,” Mr. Fenton said.

Most of the delays are due to the village’s deal with Canadian Turbines. The company failed to provide the essential components it promised, forcing the village to purchase the parts piecemeal directly from manufacturers. Defective turbine blades purchased from Orengine International Ltd. of Genova, Italy in 2011 set the project back even further.

The village was awarded $6,837,000 in damages in a lawsuit against Canadian Turbines by State Supreme Court Justice David R. Demarest. However, the Canadian company has dissolved and is devoid of any assets, so the village is unlikely to receive any of the awarded money, according to Mr. Fenton.

Once the plant is complete, the village will sell the power to generate revenue. The plant will generate 2.5 megawatts of power, enough to power about 2,500 homes on average.

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