Firm buys TransCanada dams in New England

Bellows Falls hydroelectric station, Rockingham

The Vermont Supreme Court has sided with the town of Rockingham in a long-running dispute over the valuation of TransCanada’s Bellows Falls hydroelectric station. Photo by Randy Holhut/The Commons

Editor’s note: This story by business reporter John Lippman was first published in the Valley News on Nov. 1.

WILDER — A Boston-based private equity firm managed by an energy industry investor with deep ties to the Tuck School of Business at Dartmouth College has emerged as the buyer of the Wilder dam and 12 other hydroelectric power facilities along the Connecticut and Deerfield Rivers in Vermont, New Hampshire and Massachusetts.

ArcLight Capital Partners said late Tuesday that its affiliate Great River Hydro had signed an agreement to acquire TransCanada’s New England hydroelectric power assets. TransCanada announced in March that it was putting its New England power generation business up for sale in order to help finance its acquisition of a Texas natural gas company.

Terms of the deal were not disclosed. TransCanada bought the 13 hydroelectric dams in 2005 for $505 million when their former owner, USGen of New England, was in bankruptcy.

The deal came the same day that Tuck announced the formation of the Revers Center for Energy, named after Tuck alumnus, board member and ArcLight co-founder Daniel Revers.

Tuck said the center was established with a “generous gift” from Revers to educate “leaders in the field of energy, making permanent the activities of the Revers Energy Initiative to facilitate student education and career exploration in this important and multifaceted sector.”

A spokesman for ArcLight did not return a call for comment.

Vermont for several months weighed whether it should buy a partial or full stake in the dams, but a working group last month recommended that the state not do so. Some documents indicated the dams could be worth close to $1.4 billion, VTDigger reported.

The Wilder Station, as the dam is officially called, has been in operation since 1950, is a major source of tax revenue for both Hartford and Lebanon.

Hartford officials had expressed concern that if Vermont acquired the dam it would create a hole in the town’s budget because state ownership would exempt the property from the tax rolls. Presumably the town and state would have hammered out an agreement over payments and maintenance, although there could be no assurances of the outcome.

The Wilder dam, which Hartford assesses at $32.4 million, contributed $750,000 in annual tax revenue to Hartford in 2016, or about 6 percent of the town’s total tax revenue — roughly equivalent to what the town spends on its planning department and library.

Lebanon, meanwhile, assesses the Wilder dam at $44.9 million, which generated $563,000 in tax revenue for the city during the year’s first half period, according to online tax records. TransCanada says that the 13 hydroelectric stations pay property taxes in 53 communities in the three states in which they operate.

ArcLight, in its announcement, said the company “has committed to retain all existing operational personnel, plans to assume the recently negotiated union contract, and will continue the (Federal Energy Regulatory Commission) relicensing process currently underway at the Bellows Falls, Wilder and Vernon facilities.”

The Wilder dam’s license is set to expire in 2018.

The Wilder dam backs up the Connecticut River 45 miles upstream to Newbury and Haverhill, according to the Hanover Conservancy, and receives drainage from 3,375 square miles of watershed in the Twin States.

The three turbines have a combined generating capacity of 41 megawatts.

One megawatt of hydroelectric-generated electricity can power between 750 to 1,000 “average” homes, according to the Electric Power Supply Association, although actual amounts can be less and depend on a variety of factors, including geographic location, plant equipment and demand.

ArcLight Capital, which says it has invested in more than $3.1 billion in “renewable power assets” in the U.S., was co-founded in 2000 by Revers, a 1989 graduate of Tuck who also sits on the business school’s board of overseers and previously endowed the Revers Professor of Business Administration.

On Tuesday, as part of announcement about the Revers Center for Energy, Tuck unveiled a new website featuring the center’s three professors and eight fellows, the latter all members of the Class of 2017.

Tuck said the gift “continues Revers’ long-standing support of Tuck and its students. Revers provided catalyzing funding to launch the initiative in 2012, endowing the Revers Professor of Business Administration that same year. Revers has also shown his appreciation for Tuck by funding the Revers Board Fellows Program and a faculty fellow.”

John Lippman can be reached at 603-727-3219 or [email protected]

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  • Tom Grout

    This is good news. Any buyer except the State of Vermont is fine with me.

  • The purchaser and it’s affiliation with Dartmouth College makes this seem to be a win-win situation for residents of Vermont, New Hampshire, and Massachusetts, particularly those living in the Connecticut and Deerfield River Valleys. I’m especially happy not to see the name Iberdrola nor Blittersdorf associated with this purchase.

  • Moshe Braner

    Clearly the state should have purchased the dams in 2005.

  • Whew! That takes out of the possibility of Vermont`s leadership ever getting involved.. So relieved! Remember the transmission line that cut through the N E kingdom, headed down country with no access for Vt, ?? The only thing does better is spend money!! End..

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