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West Virginia exploring new sources for micro hydro power

Marshall University has announced plans to install a 1.3 kW micro hydro plant to be used as a demonstration and education project in the Morris Creek Watershed near Montgomery.

The project is being coordinated by Marshall's Center for Environmental, Geotechnical and Applied Sciences in conjunction with the West Virginia Brownfields Assistance Center at Marshall University, the Morris Creek Watershed Association and the West Virginia Division of Energy's Office of Coalfield Community Development.

According to the university, the hydroelectric project will use acid mine drainage discharge as its water source to "demonstrate renewable energy applications on former surface-mined properties".

Water from the discharge will be diverted to power the turbine generator, then directed back into the main stream for treatment before entering Morris Creek.

"We're seeing an increasing interest in various types of renewable energy all around the state," said George Carico, director of the West Virginia Brownfields Assistance Center. "Electricity generated from hydropower is definitely not new, but using mine water discharge as a power source is."

Power generated by the plant will be fed to the Morris Creek Watershed Association's stream monitoring equipment and meeting facility, while the project itself will be open for tours and other educational programs.

"This system, though quite small in terms of electrical generation capacity, will help people better understand this particular type of renewable energy," Carico said. "With the Morris Creek Watershed Association providing educational outreach programs, members of the local community and students and teachers, as well as other watershed groups, will get to see close up how hydropower in the right setting can provide a reliable power supply."

Marshall said a total of US$14,000 in federal and local funding was provided for the project, with half coming from the Appalachian Regional Commission and the other being cash and in-kind financing from the Morris Creek Watershed Association. The association also provided engineering expertise and support from the West Virginia University Institute of Technology and Bridgemont Community and Technical College.

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