An irrigation canal in Franklin County may become the site of the first power plant in the nation to use a new hydroelectric power technology.
Percheron Power of Kennewick hopes to build a small conduit project on a canal two miles west of Mesa near Road 170 and Langford Road.
The Franklin County Planning Commission unanimously recommended approval for the conditional use permit for the project Tuesday, but the company has many other regulatory hoops to jump through before construction.
Percheron Power received a $1.5 million federal grant from the Department of Energy and Department of the Interior’s Bureau of Reclamation in September to install the nation’s first Archimedes Hydrodynamic Screw hydropower system in the Potholes East Canal.
That will help pay for the $5 million system that will harness the energy produced in the 18-foot drop at the current check station in the canal, said Sharon Atkin, Percheron Power project development director.
“Right now, that energy is just going kind of down the drain, and it can be captured,” said Jerry Straalsund, the company’s president.
There will be no change to the water level in the canal, and Straalsund said the electric project will not affect irrigators.
The project would use four turbines in which water would flow through at 30 to 50 revolutions per minute, Straalsund said. The technology has been used in Europe for about 15 years.
The water will be brought around the existing check station in the Potholes East Canal and into the turbines using a bypass channel and will then return to the canal after the station, according to documents.
Once complete, the project will produce about 7,000 megawatt hours each year, or enough to power about 540 homes in the Northwest, according to documents.
The project is expected to take three to five years to complete based on all of the regulatory requirements, according to Percheron Power.