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David Brown Kinloch
President, Lock 7 Hydro Partners, LLC
Developer, Harrodsburg, Kentucky
The Low Impact Hydropower Institute (LIHI) is a non-profit environmental certification organization that reviews the impacts and design of hydropower projects across eight categories—from fish passage to cultural resource protection. LIHI certification is voluntary and designed to create market incentives to minimize the environmental impacts of hydropower projects at both new and existing dam sites.
There is no typical day on the job for David Brown Kinloch.
"With small hydro you do it all," said Kinloch, president and CEO of Lock 7 Hydro Partners and co-owner of the Mother Ann Lee Hydroelectric Station on the Kentucky River near Harrodsburg, Kentucky. "We do everything from the licensing, the permitting, the financing and all the regulatory stuff. We do the actual building and operating. We do it all."
Besides Kinloch, the "we" he cites are his partners Bob Fairchild and David Coyte, who help him operate and maintain the plant, a full-time job involving a range of responsibilities. On any given day, Kinloch and his partners might operate a crane to clean out river debris; design parts for the plant and have them manufactured at machine shops; tear down and rebuild a failed generator; or work with the local utilities that buy their power.
Located in the middle of what Kinloch calls "coal country," the 2-megawatt Mother Ann Lee Hydroelectric Station is located at Lock & Dam 7 on the Kentucky River on land once owned by a Shaker community headed by Mother Ann Lee. The plant consists of three, 680-kilowatt turbine generators that on average can power 1,000 households. Kinloch's facility is the only hydropower plant in Kentucky, and one of only about 30 hydro plants in the United States that has received certification from the Low Impact Hydropower Institute for limiting the plant's environmental impacts on river flows, water quality, wildlife and other criteria.
Mother Ann Lee transmits its electricity to the Salt River Electric Company, a local cooperative. Kinloch, 52, also sells renewable energy credits to Louisville Gas and Electric, which uses them in their customer choice Green Energy program.
"Every kilowatt hour we generate is about one less pound of coal that has to be extracted from the ground and two less pounds of carbon dioxide that go up into the air," Kinloch, age, said. "Mostly everything in Kentucky is coal, and we're dealing with mountaintop removal, acid mine drainage -- bad environmental effects as a result of coal."
A Louisville, Kentucky, native, Kinloch has worked in the renewable energy industry since the 1980s. He attended college on the East Coast and worked in New York and Philadelphia for several years before moving back to Kentucky to do consumer protection work for the Kentucky Public Service Commission and part-time work on small hydroelectric projects. In 2005, he was presented with a unique opportunity to purchase a retired hydroelectric plant, now Mother Ann Lee, which a local utility considered tearing down.
"There are states that have done a lot in renewable energy, but here in Kentucky we're just getting started," said Kinloch. "Mark Twain said when he died he wanted to go to Kentucky because they're 20 years behind in everything. And it's really true. That's the reason I didn't stay on the East Coast after I graduated college."
Kentucky has some of the lowest utility rates in the country because of the abundance of coal, which made it very difficult to start up renewable energy projects in the state, he said. In the past year alone, however, new opportunities in the industry have opened up, including a chance to develop other sites around Kentucky. Public awareness around the urgency of new renewable development is growing.
"We thought it was important educational-wise that people realize that renewable energy can be made right here in Kentucky," he said. "It's all educational because an ounce of action is worth a ton of talk and until people can see it's not something theoretical—it's happening right here and right now, it's not going to happen. So people have to be educated. That's half of our job, besides making the power plant work."