Local News

Raleigh eyes hydroelectric dam at Falls Lake

Posted September 21, 2011

— Raleigh is moving forward with a plan to develop a hydroelectric facility at Falls Lake Dam – the city's latest eco-friendly effort to generate electricity.

The City Council on Tuesday authorized city staff to file documents of intent with the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission and to begin searching for a consultant to help develop funding options for the design and construction of the dam.

A study by the city found that such a project, costing $5 million to $7 million, is feasible under certain economic conditions.

"We’re taking a careful look at whether hydroelectric power would pay for itself," Raleigh Mayor Charles Meeker said Wednesday. "We have initial figures that make it look very good. Now, we want to take a careful look at it to see if we can go ahead."

Electricity generated from the dam would be enough to power several hundred houses, Meeker said.

"We want to make sure that the power generated would pay back that cost and also make a profit for the city," Meeker said.

Falls Lake is a major source of drinking water for the area, and some people are concerned about how a hydroelectric dam could impact the body of water.

Falls Lake Dam Raleigh eyes hydroelectric dam at Falls Lake

Kenneth Walthroup, Raleigh's assistant public utilities director says the public shouldn't see any changes.

"There will be no change in the dam structure, no change in the release rate, no change in the elevations of the lake itself," Walthroup said. "The purpose of the project is to have a minimal impact on the environment and the appearance."

Walthroup said the city started working on the hydroelectric plan after a Vermont-based company expressed interest to use the dam to make electricity. City officials said they wanted to protect water levels.

The main costs associated with the project would be to install generators, which would be part of existing structures. There would be no changes in the operation of the lake, which Walthroup said, is what the city wants to ensure.

"If we do our job right, people will not notice a difference," he said.

Making electricity from water isn't the first eco-friendly endeavor that the city has undertaken.

"The city of Raleigh is becoming a significant energy generator," Meeker said. "We have $250,000 of gas coming out of our old landfill. We now have four different solar installations … So, if we can make the green power here in the city, let's go for it."

The city recycles methane gas produced by waste decaying in the landfill to produce steam to power manufacturing operations at a nearby plant at a profit of about $250,000 a year.

Solar panels help power hundreds of homes, and there are plans to put more on top of the Raleigh Convention Center downtown.

There are other examples, too.

Corn, fertilized by sludge generated at the Neuse River Wastewater Treatment Plant is being harvested and sold as livestock feed. The city is growing sunflowers the same way and refining them into biodiesel to fuel the city's diesel vehicles.


This story is closed for comments.

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  • david1009 Sep 22, 2011

    "enough to power several hundred houses". I'm all for going green, but that doesn't seem much of a difference.

  • littlebobeep Sep 22, 2011

    This has got to be THE dumb idea of the year.
    1. The lake is not deep enough to get a reasonable water pressure to turn a turbine of any size (hint, see Hoover dam!).
    2. You need a good amount of water flowing, have you seen how much currently flows? (hint, it's not enough) and,
    3. You cannot increase the flow without draining the lake (See drought!).

  • Offshore Sep 22, 2011

    It would seem that if you are going to build a reservoir, depth would be a key concern... apparently they forgot that at Falls Lake. I would be concerned about water supply.

  • chevybelair57sd Sep 22, 2011

    Raleigh government has not demonstrated good bang for the buck recently, I'd like to see where old liberal Charlie thinks the money is coming from, oh us taxpayers again, man sure has big ideas with other peoples money

  • tugboat01 Sep 22, 2011

    Solar panels help power hundreds of homes, and there are plans to put more on top of the Raleigh Convention Center downtown.

    Really, We built the RCC & did not have the insight to include it in the project @ half the investment so that it had at least an opportunity @return on investment.

    It has taken 5 years & millions of dollars to decide how to fix the lake & while it was bone dry these people did not see the opportunity to clean/dig it out while dump truck drivers were going bankrupt.

    Hey, it is called a SHOVEL READY JOB unlike bridges & highways that are 5 year away jobs!!!!! Government at it's best, so sad so many think more of is better!!!

  • DontLikeTheSocialistObama Sep 22, 2011

    Having grown up around the TVA dams in Tennessee, I was surprise that Falls Dam and Jordan Dam weren't being used to generate electricity.

    This is a no brainer.

  • DontLikeTheSocialistObama Sep 22, 2011

    Meeker is finally proposing something that makes sense. Not bad after all of these years.

  • cam7002 Sep 22, 2011

    Typical golo posts indicate a strong presence of those American Taliban who would keep us in the dark ages. The article indicates the generators would not use more water and that the water level would not be affected. Are any of you nay-sayers aware that Kerr Lake and Lake Gaston power hydro? Kerr Dam produces 425,000MWh/year. Same with the Gaston Dam. Roanoke Rapids Dam produces half of that. Do you know how many tons of poison in our air that eliminates by offsetting coal-burning plants? And all of you worrying about not having enough water, dams don't decrease the amount of water for drinking. If you are concerned about water shortage, how about advocating a change to the permissive nature of lawn watering, car washing, showering, and spraying driveways clean? Nah! Let's just accuse Mayor Meeker of being an fool instead for wanting to capture the kinetic energy already present from the existing flow of Falls Lake water.

  • Jim Britt Sep 22, 2011

    Excellent idea. I hope it works.

  • theartistformerlyknownasspeedy Sep 21, 2011

    You do realize you need water to run a hydro plant, right geosol?