By Nicole Montesano • Staff Writer • 

Commissioners consider hydropower proposal

Gridflex Energy LLC assesses sites for hydropower potential. It then applies for licenses to develop the projects through a limited liability corporation established specifically for that purpose.

To fund actual development, it offers the corporations to big investment companies, CEO Matthew Shapiro told the commission. By facilitating such a project locally, he said, the utility would qualify for a percentage of the gross, which could produce upwards of a million dollars a year in revenue.

Commissioners liked the concept, but raised concern about potential downsides. They also were wary of Shapiro’s reluctance to provide specifics when pressed about how much Gridflex actually invests itself and how it recoups that money.

They said they would need the right to terminate a project at any time. And they said they would need to retain ownership and control of all utility resources.

Shapiro envisions boring a tunnel through the mountains to pour water from McGuire Reservoir nearly a thousand feet down to Haskins Reservoir. The water would cascade through a turbine, generating power for around six hours a day, then be pumped back up to avoid overfilling the lower reservoir.

He predicted that Portland General Electric would be interested in purchasing the output. At least some commissioners said they thought retention would probably make more sense, however.

Shapiro said 18 such projects are currently under consideration in the U.S., but only a handful have actually been developed. He said the majority won’t pan out for one reason or another.

Commissioners expressed interest in continuing to talk in hopes an exploratory deal can be struck. Gridflex rejected the commission’s initial offer.

In other business, the commission:

n Held an executive session to consult with legal counsel about possible litigation, then returned to open session and directed the staff to “pursue avenues” to collect money past due from Olde Stone Village.

n Approved amendments to the utility’s contract to purchase power from Crown Hill Farms.

n Directed staff to release the draft of a new joint-use agreement affording communication companies access to utility-owned power poles.

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