Plans for $200M plant in Yorkville advance

POWER TALK — Alan Skelly, CEO of Pike Island Energy, discussed plans and updates for a hydroelectric plant at Pike Island Lock and Dam with Yorkville Council members at a meeting Tuesday evening. -- Miranda Sebroski

YORKVILLE — Plans for an estimated $200 million hydroelectric plant at Pike Island Locks and Dam in the Ohio River are continuing to develop.

Alan Skelly, CEO of Pike Island Energy, attended a Yorkville Council meeting on Tuesday, seeking feedback on his plans to build a 48-megawatt plant, which he said would generate enough electricity for about 22,000 homes. Skelly said the proposed six-turbine plant at Pike Island would be located on the portion of the dam closest to Ohio to allow river vessels to pass through the locks portion of the facility. The project has been discussed with Tiltonsville and Yorkville officials since 2017.

Skelly said the current state of the project is in the licensing process that will take two years to complete. He said after that is complete, there will be the construction process that will take another two years.

“We started talked to folks and we talked to a couple of universities from Ohio and one from West Virginia who are interested in power from Pike Island because they are looking at renewable power,” Skelly said.” The whole thing is moving along, but it feels like it is at a snail’s pace some days.”

“I have been thinking, does it make sense to make a co-op, so that we are not just selling the power to universities, but instead selling the power here locally and passing on those savings to the residents?” he asked. “Everyone would be saving pretty close to 20 percent on their electric bill with all of this. I had a chance to stop over in Wheeling and talked to the mayor over there about it. He said that they would consider and look at it. I think that is the answer that we are going to get from a lot of people.”

Skelly said that the city would need to examine itsoptions, find out the cost of such a venture and whether any laws would go against it. He added that he was considering pursuing a grant to conduct this study.

Skelly also noted to the council that money could be saved building the power house.

“By using the sheetrock panels that are there and building up dirt on our copper walls, that saves us about a half a million dollars,” Skelly said. “Just that one thing saves us that money.”

In 2017, Skelly said he would provide a new fishing area for anglers and will work to improve the fishing conditions for those on the Ohio side of the Pike Island Locks and Dam. This was due to the concerns from residents who love to fish at this location.

He did say at this time the construction phase of his project could cause “fish strandings,” which occurs when aquatic life is found dead on the beach or shore, or floating in the water. Skelly said he has been to the location multiple times to get opinions from fishermen who favor that location. He wants to continue to make sure that this location would be a destination for the community.

The Pike Island Locks and Dam has been in place since 1963 and spans the Ohio River between Ohio and West Virginia. Its West Virginia terminal is just north of the Warwood section of Wheeling, while the Ohio side reaches Yorkville. In 2014, American Municipal Power considered building a hydroelectric power plant at the Pike Island Locks and Dam, but eventually dropped the project. However, that company

opened generating units at the Willow Island Lock and Dam in Pleasants County, W.Va., last year.

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