First it was wind turbines. Then solar farms. Now Norfolk is about to become known for another form of green energy: tiny hydro-generating units.
Norfolk is already home to what is believed to be the first water-powered turbine of its kind in North America, known as an “Archimedes screw,” and is about to get its second.
On Tuesday night, council voted to partner with GreenBug Energy Inc. on a proposal to use the old sluice gates at the historic Quance Dam in Delhi to make enough electricity to power 39 homes a year.
Elected officials were told their 15% share of the project will cost them $24,000, pay for itself in three years, and earn town hall more than $266,000 over the next four decades.
But the real appeal to getting on board, they said, is that GreenBug is based in Delhi and this could be the start of a new worldwide industry right here in Norfolk County.
Company CEO Tony Bouk said he wants to bring potential buyers from around the globe to Norfolk County to see the technology — first developed 2,000 years ago to irrigate fields and now being adapted to make power — in action in Delhi and Waterford.
Bouk said he has had interest from Japan and believes there’s a market to be tapped in Europe.
In Delhi, the screw, or turbine, will be about five metres long and be pointed on a 22-degree angle from the top of the Quance Dam. Water will move through it at the speed of about 23 RPMs, slow enough fish can pass through it unharmed, and in turn create electricity.
While GreenBug, which has seven employees, could grow into a bigger company, “our main purpose is to reduce carbon dioxide emissions,” said Bouk.
He said his company also wants to put in an Archimedes screw at the Culver Dam on the Lynn River in Simcoe, a project that would generate enough power for about 15 homes.
Eric D’Hondt, Norfolk’s general manager of public works and engineering, said the Delhi project will become an attraction unto itself and will provide something else for visitors to the historic mill and adjoining museum to see.
“I don’t see any downside to it at all,” he said. “And it will put Norfolk County on an Archimedes screw pedestal for the rest of the world and North America to look at.”
Charlotteville Coun. Jim Oliver said the project will enhance the goal of Norfolk County, already home to numerous wind turbines and solar farms, becoming a green energy centre.
“I think it is very, very important for us to support this entrepreneurial business,” said Oliver. “This is something brand new. Some day this could be a large business . . . that goes across Ontario and across Canada.”
The Delhi project must make it through the approval process of the Ontario government’s Feed In Tariff program, which pays owners of green energy projects above market rates for their power, before construction can start.
Bouk said the approval process, which also includes an environmental assessment, could push the project start date beyond the summer of 2014.
Daniel R. Pearce
519-426-3528 ext. 132