LIHI Certificate #178 - Freedom Falls Project, Maine

Project Description:

Freedom Falls hydroelectric project is located on Sandy Stream in Freedom, Maine, a small rural town in Central/Mid-Coast Maine 16 miles west of Belfast, 20 miles east of Waterville, and 30 miles northeast of Augusta in Waldo County.

The run-of-river project received a FERC exemption (#14421) in 2013 to rehabilitate the old mill that had fallen into complete disrepair and to add hydro generation. The site now houses one turbine with 35 kW capacity. A school and The Lost Kitchen restaurant also occupy the mill building.

The dam was originally built in 1834 to power a gristmill and later a wood turning mill, later abandoned in 1967. The dam is a stone-masonry concreted-capped structure about 12 feet tall and 90 feet long. There are no flashboards. The dam creates a small 1.6-acre mill pond at the downstream end of Sandy Pond which is a shallow warmwater pond with a total area of 435 acres. Water is conveyed from the dam to the powerhouse by a 60-foot long penstock that creates a short bypassed reach in Sandy Stream. More information about the project can be found HERE.

In December 2019, Natel Energy installed their latest turbine, the Restoration Hydro Turbine (see HERE). This new Francis turbine replaced the Natel linear Pelton machine installed in 2017. Natel wanted to have their latest, more efficient and reliable design at this site, which is their demonstration site on the east coast. The project generates approximately 65 MWh per year. The project includes upstream and downstream passage facilities for American eel.

Project Name Freedom Falls
LIHI Certificate No. 178
LIHI Certificate Term November 3, 2020 - November 2, 2030
Owner Freedom Falls, LLC
State Maine
Location River Mile 10, Sandy Stream
Installed Capacity 35 kW
Average Annual Generation 65 MWh
Facility Type Run of river
FERC No. P-14421, exempt issued 2013

Certification History

February 23, 2021: The Low Impact Hydropower Institute has issued a final decision on the certification of the Freedom Falls Hydroelectric Project. The project is located on the Sandy Stream in Maine. The Freedom Falls Hydroelectric Project is now deemed certified by LIHI. The effective date for the certifications is November 3, 2020 for a ten (10) year term, which will expire on November 2, 2030.

The Certificate includes the following condition:

  • Condition 1: The facility Owner shall notify LIHI within 60 days of completion of the upstream eel passage expected to be installed by May 1, 2021. The notification shall include copies of any approvals received from DOI and/or Maine DMR of the final design and installation.

January 21, 2021: The Low Impact Hydropower Institute (LIHI) preliminarily approved Low Impact Certification (pending LIHI #178) for the Freedom Falls Hydroelectric Project located on Sandy Stream in Maine.

This decision is preliminary pending the 30-day appeal window. Only those who commented on the initial application during the 60-day comment period are eligible to file an appeal. Such appeal needs to include an explanation as to how the Project does not meet the LIHI criteria. Appeal requests can be submitted by email to comments@lowimpacthydro.org with “Freedom Falls Project” in the subject line, or by mail addressed to the Low Impact Hydropower Institute, 329 Massachusetts Ave, Suite 6, Lexington, MA 02420. All requests will be posted to the website. The applicant will have an opportunity to respond and any response will also be posted. Requests must be received by 5 pm Eastern time on February 19, 2021.

The full application and review report are available below. If no appeal requests are received the certification term will be November 3, 2020 through November 2, 2030.

November 9, 2020: The Low Impact Hydropower Institute has received a complete application for Low Impact Certification of the Freedom Falls Hydroelectric Project. LIHI is seeking public comment on this application. Specifically, we are interested in knowing whether you think the Project meets the LIHI Low Impact Certification Criteria, as revised in the 2nd Edition Handbook. Please review the program and criteria in LIHI’s revised Handbook and then review the Project’s application materials below.

Comments that are directly tied to specific LIHI criteria (flows, water quality, fish passage, etc.) will be most helpful, but all comments will be considered. Comments may be submitted to the Institute by e-mail at comments@lowimpacthydro.org with “Freedom Falls Project Comments” in the subject line, or by mail addressed to the Low Impact Hydropower Institute, 1167 Massachusetts Avenue, Arlington, MA 02476. Comments must be received on or before 5 pm Eastern time on January 8, 2021 to be considered. All comments will be posted to the web site and the applicant will have an opportunity to respond. Any response will also be posted.