State News

Alcoa tops $210M in revenues for power sales from NC dams

Posted November 29

— Alcoa Inc. has generated more than $210 million in revenues by closing a North Carolina factory that once employed 1,000 workers and selling the hydroelectric power that once powered the factory's production.

Alcoa reported to federal regulators this week that its four dams on the Yadkin River dams generated 928,000 megawatt hours of electricity in the year ending in September, a nearly 80 percent increase over the previous year.

The dams powered an aluminum smelter for generations before Alcoa closed it in 2007. The company announced in 2010 that the factory wouldn't reopen.

Wholesale price data provided by energy information company Platts on Tuesday means the dams would have generated revenues of about $20.7 million over the 12-month period.

Those electricity sales might be more valuable depending on how much was sold during peak Monday-through-Friday hours.

An Alcoa spokesman did not respond to emails asking why power production increased in the most recent period.

Republican Gov. Pat McCrory and his Democratic predecessor, Beverly Perdue, have for years fought Alcoa's efforts to renew its federal operating license for the dams, arguing the company shouldn't be allowed to sell the hydropower after initially promising the river's waters would create high-paying jobs.

Still, the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission in September issued Alcoa a new license allowing the central North Carolina dams to keep generating electricity for sale until 2055. The commission last week decided it would hold further hearings into the contested license.

The holder of the operating license largely determines how much water to release from the dams on the state's second-largest river system, which provides drinking water for many of North Carolina's 10 million residents. The state believes inexpensive energy generated by the dams also could generate thousands of jobs in an otherwise underdeveloped region, but would lose the opportunity to influence that growth with FERC's renewal.

Alcoa announced in July it planned to sell the dams to a Maryland company that specializes in running clean-power projects. That sale to Cube Hydro Partners, for an undisclosed price has not been finalized.

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Follow Emery P. Dalesio at http://twitter.com/emerydalesio. His work can be found at http://bigstory.ap.org/content/emery-p-dalesio.

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