Mississippi is getting closer to producing hydropower for the first time.
Four dams located in Mississippi’s Yazoo River Basin – on Arkabutla, Sardis, Enid and Grenada Lakes – will be retrofitted in the next two to three years to produce enough power for more than 15,000 homes annually.
FFP New Hydro, a Boston company that formed in 2010 to pursue hydro power projects at existing, non-powered dams in the United States, in January obtained a license from the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission to move forward with the hydropower portion of the dams, which are operated by the United States Army Corps of Engineers.
Project construction is expected to kick off between 2017 and 2018, while the hydropower portion of the dams is expected to come on line in between 2018 and 2019.
Retired Army Brig. Gen. Robert Crear is chairman of Rye Development, manager of FFP New Hydro.
Crear said converting the four dams to produce hydropower will create more than 100 jobs in the area during the construction period, and two or three permanent jobs after that.
He said bringing a renewable source of energy to the region will also bring an investment of more than $80 million.
“After I retired from a 33-year worldwide military career, my wife and I wanted to give back to the community that was responsible for our success in life,” Crear said of his career that included heading various divisions of the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers and the Mississippi River Commission.
“The fact that our projects would be the first to bring hydro-power to our home state makes me feel good and satisfied that I am giving back to the people of Mississippi.”
According to the U.S. Department of Energy’s website, Mississippi is one of two states – the other being Delaware – that does not use hydropower for electricity.
Hydropower captures energy from flowing water to make electricity. Turbines and generators convert that energy into electricity, which is fed into an electrical grid for use in homes and businesses.
LeRoy Coleman, spokesman for the National Hydropower Association, said hydropower is an ideal option for states seeking clean energy solutions.
“States like Mississippi are looking to reduce their carbon footprint,” Coleman said. “They can look to resources like hydropower.”
Coleman said hydropower has been the country’s largest source of renewable energy. He also said hydropower helps the nation avoid more than 200 million tons of carbon dioxide emissions annually – the equivalent of 42 million cars.
According to environmental assessment documents for the projects, the regulatory commission approved a license for the Yazoo Basin hydropower projects for they would be “dependable sources of electrical energy … would come from a renewable resource that does not contribute to atmospheric pollution” and would “protect and enhance environmental resources affected.”
“FERC must ensure that a project is best adapted to a comprehensive plan for improving or developing a waterway or waterways for the use or benefit of interstate or foreign commerce,” said Celeste Miller, spokeswoman for the commission. “for the improvement and utilization of waterpower development; for the adequate protection, mitigation, and enhancement of fish and wildlife; and for other beneficial public uses, including irrigation, flood control, water supply, recreation, and other purposes. We also must consider the need for power.”
FFP New Hydro has two investors: US Renewables Group of Santa Monica, Calif. and Crestline Investors of Dallas.
Pablo Diaz, executive director of the Grenada Economic Development District, said his community is looking forward to the construction of the hydropower project at the Grenada dam.
“The economic impact from the investment and job creation are important to our region as well as the positive impact it will have as a source of clean energy,” Diaz said in an email. “We look forward to supporting FFP New Hydro as they invest and create jobs in our community.”