Archive for Friday, August 14, 2009

Hydroelectric project generates public support at unveiling

This is a Bowersock Mills and Power Co. rendering of a proposed hydroelectric plant on the north side of the Kansas River. This is an east     elevation looking west from the top of the river levee.

This is a Bowersock Mills and Power Co. rendering of a proposed hydroelectric plant on the north side of the Kansas River. This is an east elevation looking west from the top of the river levee.

August 14, 2009


Residents get look at new Bowersock plans

Plans for a new $13 million hydroelectric power plant were revealed to the public Thursday. The city hopes to know if its federal funding for the project is approved by 2010. Enlarge video

The ink is barely dry on the design for the Bowersock Mills & Power Company’s proposed $13 million hydroelectric power plant on the north bank of the Kansas River.

But Bowersock plant manager Rich Foreman can already picture it in his mind: A slender glass structure just east of the downtown Kansas River bridges that will shine at night to show beautiful blue generators producing green electricity.

“It is going to be a real gem over there on the river,” Foreman said.

Bowersock officials on Thursday evening hosted a meeting for about 70 members of the public to unveil the design of the power plant they hope to build directly across from their existing plant on the Kaw.

The project won some key support from an area neighborhood group.

“We’re 100 percent in support of it,” said Ted Boyle, president of the North Lawrence Improvement Association. “We think green energy is going to be a big part of the future.”

Now, the project has to win key federal permits and find funding. Lawrence-based Bowersock announced in July that it had filed for a permit for the plant with the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission. Thursday’s public meeting at the Lawrence Visitor Information Center was part of the permit process.

Bowersock executive Sarah Hill-Nelson said the company hopes to know whether it will secure the necessary permits by late 2010.

People who attended the meeting left with one definite impression: The building will change the skyline of North Lawrence. The plant only will be 40 feet wide, but it will be about 60 feet tall. The building will be slightly taller than the Kansas River bridge, which will be just west of the building.

The plant also will jut into the river about 150 feet, taking it to the north edge of the existing Bowersock Dam. The building will be designed so water can flow through it, and when the water reaches certain levels, the back side of the plant will feature a cascading waterfall.

Thus far, the size and prominent nature of the building haven’t sparked concern.

“I think it will complement the big City Hall on the other side of the river,” said Mike Thompson, a Lawrence resident who attended the meeting.

Plans call for the project to also increase public access to the river. Hill-Nelson said Bowersock would build a new area where canoes could be launched into the Kaw, and also a new fishing platform that would be near the downriver side of the plant. The plant won’t interfere with the hiking trail atop the adjacent river levee.

The project will require a federal environmental study, but hasn’t yet faced major objections from environmentalists. Carey Maynard-Moody, a Lawrence resident who is on the executive committee of the Kansas chapter of the Sierra Club, said the group is still reviewing the project. But she said the group would balance any concerns the project may create for the river with the need to produce more green energy.

“We are one of the species, too, and we have a lot to lose with the destabilization of the climate,” Maynard-Moody said. “We know we need to find new ways to produce electricity.”

The new plant would more than double the amount of electricity the company could produce. Hill-Nelson estimated that the north plant, combined with the existing plant, would be able to produce enough electricity for about 4,500 homes.

In addition to the plant — which would have foundations 40 feet deep to ensure that it doesn’t float away — the project would include installing taller flash boards to the top of the existing dam.

The new boards would allow the upstream pool of the river to rise by about 1.5 feet, but Bowersock leaders said a study showed the higher water levels would not produce significant upstream flooding.

Bowersock leaders also assured the crowd that the Army Corps of Engineers would be doing assessments to ensure that the plant would not create too much pressure on the Kansas River levees.

Hill-Nelson said the next step for the project will involve finding funding. The company hopes to sell a long-term power contract to a small Kansas community that operates its own electric utility.


Douglas Yetman 8 years, 7 months ago

This sounds like a great idea for Lawrence. I wonder about what sort of energy producing capability there will be during drought times when the flow over the spillway is merely a trickle.

LogicMan 8 years, 7 months ago

I strongly support the addition of a second plant, but ...

I think the design having the building jutting into the river is ugly and out of place. Also could be very problematic during flooding conditions.

Instead, a design somewhat mirroring the existing plant that stays parallel and closer to the north bank seems better. If an additional foot or two of water height change can be achieved, that much more electrical output can be had.

And the extra bright lighting is largely just wasted energy and light pollution. Send the watts out the power lines instead.

Christine Pennewell Davis 8 years, 7 months ago

Why late 2010 to find out about permits? Seems like a long time.

labmonkey 8 years, 7 months ago

How many megawatts will this plant produce?

tym4fun 8 years, 7 months ago

The dam needs to be repaired first. It's very old, in disrepair and controls our water supply. Fix the infastructure first then worry about saving the planet. The planet will be here long after the dam.

Scott Drummond 8 years, 7 months ago

Looks like an eyesore to me. What a ghastly welcome to Lawrence. Why not build it on the south side of the river where the existing infrastructure is already in place? It sits way to high for my tastes.

Also agree with the light pollution point made above. Needless.

KANSTUCKY 8 years, 7 months ago

I can see it now with all the underwear strung accross the bridge... What about the bums? What's in it for them?

jeffds01 8 years, 7 months ago

why do permits and anything that is an improvement take so long with the government

this is great for the city of lawrence, the people of north lawrence, and the world in general lol

pass the "damn" dam already!

imastinker 8 years, 7 months ago

It looks ugly - and I thought that the city had to pay for repairs because the company couldn't afford to? Who's paying for these private ventures?

Jack Hope III 8 years, 7 months ago

Great idea... goofy looking building... looks like it would have been mostly underwater during the 1993 flood. How much will it cost to clean the muck out of the generators when this thing is inundated... which we know it will.

Clickker 8 years, 7 months ago

Very ugly. But hey, if they can find someone who will pay over market rates for "Green" electricity, more power to 'em!!

LA_Ex 8 years, 7 months ago

Great looking building. I'm really excited to see this happen. Some of the comments above are absolutely ridiculous and without logic (pun intended).

GardenMomma 8 years, 7 months ago

Maybe it's too tall? 60 feet high and it will sit higher than the bridge? I think it's great that they're wanting to do this, I just wish it didn't have to be such a huge building.

nekansan 8 years, 7 months ago

I like the idea, but wasn't there concern as to the structural viability of the existing dam? How would it support the additional pressure of an increased pool height above it? I see an opportunity for the city to revisit the dam maintenance agreement with the Bowersock power company. If they want to increase the wear and tear by increasing the pool level and make improvements on the dam to support a new power plant then they should resume the responsibility for the maintenance of the structure.

KS 8 years, 7 months ago

Logicman - You and I agree on this one. It looks so out of place. Change the facde so it will fit in with the sorrounding area. Give it a brick and motar facade. This addition will be good for Lawrence. It now looks just too cold. Downtown Lawrence is a historic area and they want it to look like this?

Greenie2 8 years, 7 months ago

The taxpayers of the city are footing the bill for repair of the dam (more than a million $$?) but Bowersock's not contributing on somethnig they make money off of. Yet another taxpayer bailout! Electricity won't even go to Lawrence. Fix the dam and the existing rundown building on the south before building on the north.

Greenie2 8 years, 7 months ago

Another "puff piece" by the LJW where only one side of the issue is covered. Do some actual work - don't just be a cheerleader. Clean energy's great - but there are other issues involved. Taxpayers: we're footing the bill for Bowersock's money-maker. I'd rather see fewer potholes, more police, more teachers, etc., etc. etc.

Richard Heckler 8 years, 7 months ago

Yes I would love to buy energy for my home from this local source.

Green energy is beautiful.

Hydro Exploiting the movement of water to generate electricity, known as hydroelectric power, is the largest source of renewable power in the United States and worldwide. If done correctly, hydropower can be a sustainable and nonpolluting power source that can help decrease our dependence on fossil fuels and reduce the threat of global warming. View the faces working in and supporting the hydroelectric industry or learn more about how hydroelectric energy works.

Clean Energy, Green Jobs Clean energy sources can help stabilize energy prices, stimulate the development of innovative new technology, and create high-quality jobs and other economic benefits.

labmonkey 8 years, 7 months ago

Again I many megawatts will it produce? Poorly written piece if it cannot give us that information.

Orwell 8 years, 7 months ago


"The proposed project would have a total capacity of 7.15 megawatts (MW) and an average annual generation of 33 gigawatt-hours."

I entered "Bowersock" and "megawatt" in that search window thingy above, and bingo!

labmonkey 8 years, 7 months ago


I was trying to point out that this should have been in the article. They don't want the reader to see how poor of a bargain this is.

BigPrune 8 years, 7 months ago

Can't they do anything to lessen the height so it isn't taller than the freaking bridge?

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