WHEELING, W.Va. -- Two companies are proposing to build a hydroelectric power plant at the Pike Island Locks and Dam along the Ohio River in Wheeling.American Municipal Power and Free Flow Power Project have submitted competing preliminary permit applications for the project, which must be approved by the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission. The project would generate up to 256,000 megawatt-hours of electricity annually.The commission is accepting public comments on the project, which is being proposed as American Electric Power prepares to close its coal-fired Kammer Plant near Moundsville by the end of next year.Columbus, Ohio-based American Municipal Power currently operates the New Martinsville Hydroelectric Plant at the Hannibal Locks and Dam further south along the Ohio River. Free Flow Power Project is based in Boston.Wheeling Jesuit University professor Ben Stout, an advocate for reducing pollution from the burning of fossil fuels, told The Intelligencer and Wheeling-News Register that the potential hydroelectric plant is "a step in the right direction."
"This energy is being wasted now," he said. "The dam is already there with all of that potential energy just streaming across it. Not only would it be environmentally friendly, but it would help us achieve energy independence."Preliminary plans detailed in a legal ad show AMP would build a 155-foot wide, 71-foot tall water intake structure.Free Flow Power Project's plan would have a 225-foot wide, 50-foot long intake facility.The AMP plan would generate up to 256,000 megawatt-hours of electricity annually, while the Free Flow project would generate about 225,000 megawatt-hours per year.Both intake facilities would be near the Ohio side of the dam and the projects would cover several acres of federal lands.The Pike Island Locks and Dam has been in place since 1963. It spans the river just north of the Warwood section of Wheeling on the West Virginia side and near Yorkville on the Ohio side.