The Indian Orchard Project (the “Project”) is exempt from licensing by the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission (“FERC”) as Project No. 10678.  The Project is owned by Essential Power, LLC ™ (“Essential Power”).[1]  The Project is located in the Town of Ludlow and City of Springfield in Hampden County, Massachusetts, at approximate river mile 7.8 on the Chicopee River.  The Project dam crosses the municipal line between Ludlow and Springfield. The powerhouse is located in Springfield.  The impoundment extends in a northeasterly direction, bordering Ludlow and Springfield.  In 1988, the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission determined that the Chicopee River was a navigable waterway under its jurisdiction and ordered WMECO to prepare an application for Exemption from Licensing.

Project Name Indian Orchard
LIHI Certificate Number 112
LIHI Effective and Expiration Dates July 19, 2013
July 19, 2018
Owner Essential Power, LLC
State Massachusetts
Location Located at approximately river mile 7.8 on the Chicopee River in the Town of Ludlow and the City of Springfield in Hampden County, Massachusetts.
Installed Capacity 3,700 KW
Average Annual Generation 12,700 KWh
 Facility Type  Operated in a limited pond-and-release mode
 FERC No. 10678

The existing major project works include a cut-stone dam with a crest elevation of 159.4 feet (NGVD), topped with 1.6-foot flashboards, an impoundment, a canal headgate house, a power canal, an intake structure for two operating penstocks, a powerhouse with two operating generating units, a tailrace channel (125.25 feet NGVD) and appurtenant facilities.

The dam, built prior to 1885, crosses the Chicopee River in a roughly north-to-south direction, and is a masonry, gravity structure with a timber deck approximately 402-foot long by 28-foot high.  The deck elevation is El. 159.4, topped with 1.6 foot flashboards to create an impoundment elevation of 161.0 feet.[2]

At normal pond elevation the Indian Orchard Project impoundment extends approximately 4,200 feet upstream of the dam.  At normal pond condition, the maximum surface area is approximately 74 acres at El. 161.0 feet.  While the maximum useable storage of the reservoir is 70 acre-feet, the used storage capacity is just 35 acre-feet.  While the permitted daily drawdown is 0.5 foot during the spring and 1 foot for the balance of the year (except during energy audits and system emergencies when this limit may be exceeded), the actual year-round drawdown is six inches.

The canal headgate structure is a brick structure on a concrete foundation, housing the seven intake gates that control the flow from the impoundment to the power canal. [3]  The seven head gates are all of steel construction, 8.4 feet high by 9.4 feet wide. Each gate is equipped with rack and pinion hoists.  The gate hoists are motor-driven by seven 3-hp, 60-cycle, 220/440V, 1730 rpm motors.  A minimum flow discharge pipe was installed just downstream of the canal gatehouse.[4]  This facility is to be replaced with a new structure

The power canal extends from the headgates to the penstock intake structure.  The canal is approximately 1,300 feet long by 76 feet wide at the gatehouse, narrowing to 52 wide at the penstock intake.  The inner sidewalls are constructed of cut-granite, and earthen embankments create the outer walls.  The canal has a cobble floor.  An 88-foot long canal is on the north wall of the canal, adjacent to the headgate house.  The spillway has a crest elevation of 160.9 feet.

The canal leads to the intake structure for the two operating and two abandoned penstocks.  Adjacent to the trashracks[5] on the upstream face of the intake is a concrete sluiceway that discharges back to the Chicopee River.  There are stop log slots for isolation of Unit 3.  There are two steel penstock gates for Unit No.4, each measuring 11.3 feet wide by 14.7 feet wide.  These gates also have filler gates.  The penstock gates are operated by two 5-hp, 440 V, 60-cycle, 2-phase electrical motors.  There is also one long steel skimmer gate, 2 foot wide by 23 feet long.

Two operable and two inoperable steel penstocks lead underground from the intake structure to the powerhouse.  The two inoperable penstocks are plugged with concrete and were taken out of service in 1970.  The penstock for Unit No.3 is 190 feet long and 11 feet in diameter.  The penstock for Unit No.4 is 160 feet long and 16 feet in diameter.

The Indian Orchard Project powerhouse is constructed of brick and concrete and was built ca. 1896.  The original equipment included horizontal waterwheels that were belt-connected to generators.  The original waterwheels for Units No.1 and No.2 were retired in 1970.

The powerhouse measures approximately 190.5 feet by 50 feet in plan, with bays for the discontinued Units No.1 and No.2 at the easterly end, and operating Units No.3 and No.4 at the westerly end of the structure.[6]  The two operating units discharge through two tailrace bays directly to the Chicopee River.  The normal tailrace elevation is 125.3 feet.

The powerhouse’s 5.5 KV generator bus is connected to two 3 MVA transformers located adjacent to the powerhouse.  These transformers convert the 5.5 KV, 2-phase, 4-wire system in the generating station to 13.8 KV, 3-phase, 3-wire system for connection to the 13.8 KV bus in WMECO Orchard substation.

The Indian Orchard project is situated upstream of two other hydroelectric facilities located on the Chicopee River[7] and downstream of three other dams on the Chicopee River as well as other dams on the Ware, Swift and Quaboag Rivers.[8]  One of the two downstream hydroelectric facilities are owned and operated by Essential Power – Dwight Station Project (P-10675).  The Putts Bridge (P-10677) and Red Bridge Projects (P-10676) are owned and operated by Essential Power and are located upstream of the Project.  The Project drains an area of 687 square miles.

Upstream of the Indian Orchard Project is Collins Dam Project (P-6544) and immediately upstream of Dwight Station Project is Chicopee Falls Dam (P-6522).  The Project and the other Essential Power dams on the Chicopee River have little to no control over their inflows.  Collins Hydro and Chicopee Falls dams are owned by unrelated entities[9] as are all of the hydroelectric projects on the upstream tributaries of the Chicopee River.  In addition, the Massachusetts Water Resources Agency diverts permanently nearly all of the water from the upper Swift River watershed and diverts for eight months of year nearly all of the water from the uppermost portion of the Ware River watershed.  These waters are then transferred through aqueducts to the metropolitan Boston area.

Based upon inflow into the Project, Indian Orchard is operated in a limited pond-and-release mode, utilizing the useable storage capacity (35 acre-feet) afforded by a 0.5 foot drawdown year round.[10]  The station is operated automatically by float controls.  The operating mode of the Indian Orchard project does not change during dry, mean or high water years.  As flows vary at the Project, the number of turbines operating and the duration of operation changes, increasing and decreasing the amount of generation realized.

[1] Until the late 1990s, the Project was owned by Western Massachusetts Electric Company when the Project was sold to Consolidated Edison Energy, Inc. (“CEEI”), an affiliate of Consolidated Edison Company of New York, Inc.  In 2008, the Project was sold to its current owner, Essential Power.

[2] FWS noted a discrepancy in the impoundment elevation; either it is 160.0’ for 160.308.’  With the completion of the minimum flow gate discharge project, Essential Power intends to re-survey the dam, determine the exact elevation and file that information with the appropriate agencies.

[3] Early 2000s plans for the installation of a bar rack and/or a trash boom at the canal gatehouse were discussed but not implemented.  A review of the FERC record shows that there is no requirement that the Project have such installations.

[4] It is intended that this facility be replaced with a new minimum flow structure by year-end 2013.  Plans have not been finalized.  Once finalized, these plans will be filed with the FERC and other hydro agencies for public comment and review.

[5] The trashrack spacing for Unit No.3 is 3 inches while the trashrack spacing for Unit No. 4 is 3¼ inches.

[6] Unit No. 3 hydraulic capacity is 625 cfs while Unit No.4 hydraulic capacity is 900 cfs.

[7] The order of the hydroelectric dams, starting with the lowest dam, on the Chicopee River is Dwight Station Project (P-10675) river mile 1.2, Chicopee Falls Project (P-6522) river mile 3.0, Indian Orchard Project (P-10678) river mile 7.8, Putts Bridge Project (P-10677) river mile 9.2, Collins Hydro Project (P-6544) river mile 12.6 and Red Bridge Project (P-10676) river mile 15.2.

[8] For example, the first dam on the Ware River is Thorndike Dam river mile 20.5 while the first dam on the Swift River is the Upper Bondsville Dam river mile 20.1. (No dams were identified on the Quaboag River).

[9] Collins Hydro is owned and operated by an affiliate of Swift River Company.  Chicopee Falls is owned by Chicopee Municipal Light District and since April 1, 2013 it is operated by an affiliate of Swift River Company.

[10] Although the Project has a one-foot drawdown for the non-spring periods of the year, the Project operates year-round with a six-inch drawdown.




Certification History

December 11, 2013: Indian Orchard Hydroelectric Project has been certified as low impact for a five year term, effective July 19, 2013 and expiring July 19, 2018.  The certification was granted with the following compliance obligations:

The Indian Orchard project owner, Essential Power LLC, will convene an annual workshop on Chicopee River Hydropower Operations designed to promote better understanding of regulated flows and impoundment fluctuations on the river, and to identify operational flow enhancements that can benefit the dual goals of clean, renewable energy and environmental protection.  This workshop will be a forum for sharing annual operational data from all the projects on the river.  The first such workshop will happen no later than June 2014, scheduled at a time when all the Chicopee hydropower owners and the applicable resource agencies can attend (i.e., FWS, MDFW and MDEP).  A summary report describing the outcomes for this workshop will be provided to LIHI and to workshop participants.  If the workshop is deemed a success, it will be repeated annually.  If it is less than successful, Essential Power may petition LIHI to discontinue it.  LIHI staff will be available to assist with this workshop, if so requested.

September 19, 2013: Public comment period on application has closed.

July 19, 2013: Essential Power LLC has submitted an application for the certification of the Indian Orchard Hydroelectric Project; application has been posted to website and public comment period was opened.