Deerfield dams sold to investment firm in Boston

  • The dam at Fife Brook on the Deerfield River. Recorder Staff/Paul Franz

For the Bulletin
Monday, November 14, 2016

For the second time in 11 years, hydroelectric power facilities on the Deerfield River are being sold.

ArcLight Capital Partners, a Boston-based energy investment company, has signed an agreement to buy TransCanada’s hydroelectric facilities along the Deerfield and Connecticut rivers. The sale is expected to close in mid-2017, subject to customary regulatory and other approvals.

The sale price has not been announced; but in 2005, TransCanada bought the 13 stations and properties for $505 million from USGen of New England, which was in bankruptcy.

A news release from ArcLight Capital Partners says that Great River Hydro “anticipates a smooth transition of ownership,” and “is committed to retaining all existing employees.” It also plans to honor a recently negotiated union contract and continue the on-going Federal Energy Regulatory Commission relicensing process for the Vermont hydro-facilities.

According to TransCanada spokesman Mark Cooper, the sale of 13 facilities will affect between 400 to 415 employees within the three-state region. He did not provide a breakdown of how many employees work at the Deerfield River facilities in western Massachusetts.

“We’re very committed to see that these people will be treated fairly and respectfully,” Cooper added.

ArcLight is a private equity firm, founded in 2001, that focuses on energy infrastructure investments. The company says it has invested $17 billion in at least 100 transactions since its founding. Arc-Light says about 20 percent of its investments are in renewable energy. Since 2006, this investment group has owned and operated 10 hydro facilities along riverways in Maine.

ArcLight is forming an affiliate company, Great River Hydro, to oversee and operate the power stations on the Connecticut and Deerfield rivers.

“We are thrilled to expand our renewable footprint by acquiring these premier hydroelectric assets from Trans-Canada,” said Dan Revers, managing partner and co-founder of ArcLight.

Of the 13 hydroelectric stations and water storage reservoirs being sold, all six Connecticut River stations are based in Vermont and New Hampshire. But five out of seven stations along the Deerfield River are based in western Franklin County. They include: the Deerfield 2 station on the Conway/Shelburne boundary; the Deerfield 3 station in Buckland and the Deerfield 4 station, in Shelburne Falls. All three stations have been in service since 1912 or 1913, according to Trans-Canada.

The Deerfield 5 (Bear Swamp) station, in service since 1974, is in Rowe, and the Sherman station, in service since 1927, sits between Monroe and Rowe. Coupled with the 41-megawatt (MW) Harriman station and the 5-MW Searsburg station, the combined Deerfield River facilities produce 86 MW of power.

The combined Connecticut and Deerfield river facilities produce about 560 megawatts of electricity. Also, Trans-Canada owns roughly 30,000 acres of land around these facilities. Most of the land is permanently conserved and open to the public for recreational use, including hunting, fishing, and hiking. TransCanada says it owns and maintains dozens of picnic areas and 20 boat launches along the rivers and reservoirs.

Recently, TransCanada presented large community grants to two of its host towns. In June, the company gave Buckland a $50,000 grant to help the town purchase the baseball field off Conway Street. Last month, TransCanada gave Monroe a $30,000 community investment grant to pursue demolition of a crumbling, privately owned mill building that is at risk of collapsing into the river and polluting it with hazardous waste.

In March, TransCanada announced it was selling its New England hydroelectric facilities to raise money to help finance the purchase of the Houston-based Columbia Pipeline Group.