Hydroelectric options presented in Warren Mill restoration


MILLSBORO – Rejuvenating restoration of historic Warren Mill via hydro-electric generation will be costly and likely dependent on grant funding.

Town of Millsboro leaders are continuing to explore the potential for hydroelectric power in efforts to restore historic Warren Mill.

That was the word Monday night during a presentation by Rick Beringer, senior environmental consultant with Duffield Associates.

In an update to Millsboro town council, Mr. Beringer offered two options in replacing the historic power turbine in the town’s last standing grist mill: ancillary equipment or a newer, smaller turbine to support hydroelectric generation.

The options carry substantial price tags.

‘I’m here to give you the bad news, I guess on the turbine at Warren Mill; that being the cost,” said Mr. Beringer. “Bottom line is if we are going to do something to generate electricity there, it is going to be in the $300,000-plus range, almost $400,000.”

One option is a vertical turbine option from an Ohio company and the “one-for-one replacement of what’s there would run somewhere between $321,000 and $366,000,” Mr. Beringer said. That cost includes site work, permitting, engineering and equipment.

An Archimedes screw, carrying a projected cost of $314,000 to $380,000, was one option presented at the Nov. 6 Millsboro council meeting.

A second, more efficient option, from Greenbug Energy of Ontario, Canada is an Archimedes screw. This process works by converting potential energy into kinetic energy using the weight of water to turn the screw in a manner similar to water-wheel designs.

“The equipment is a little less expensive, but more site work is necessary. It’s very visible and from an educational standpoint it would be kind of cool,” Mr. Beringer said.

Projected cost for an Archimedes screw is from $314,000 to $380,000.

Mr. Beringer said the payback just looking at the finances is “60 to 70 years based on the value of the electricity. As we kind of suspected early on this is not going to pay for itself. It is going to be an educational thing or it’s going to serve some other community function.”

Warren Mill, a grist mill built in the early 1900s along State Street at Mill Pond, was added to the National Register of Historic Places in 1978.

Preservation efforts incorporating hydroelectric generation have been in the works since the spring.

At council’s early June meeting, Mr. Beringer told town leaders the energy power potential is somewhere between 6 kilowatts and 14 kilowatts. On an annual basis it would generate $5,000 to $6,000 worth of electric in retail, which would require an agreement with Delmarva Power through a retail trade basis known as net-metering, Mr. Beringer said.

Town council, acting on councilman Tim Hodges’ motion, unanimously agreed to proceed with a structural assessment study of the mill and explore a proposal to determine what it would cost to find funding.

Rick Beringer

Acting on Mr. Beringer’s suggestion, council agreed to ante up $2,800 for a structural engineering study on the aging mill structure.

The recommendation is to shore up the building. “What I saw last spring; the sills are going, and it needs to be propped up,” said Mr. Beringer. “It’s not an expensive proposition but some action should be taken.”

Millsboro Town Manager Sheldon Hudson polled Mr. Beringer for his gauge-take on the prospect of grant funding. At council meetings Mr. Beringer has mentioned several funding sources such as education, water resources or historic preservation grants and even the Delaware Department of Transportation.

“I still think that. I think there is a pretty good chance you’ll find some money,” said Beringer. “If you are going to do something with hydroelectricity there, I would absolutely not do it unless you get grant money.”

News Editor Glenn Rolfe can be reached at grolfe@newszap.com

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