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Source: French Development Enterprises, North Billerica, Mass.

Oldcastle Precast, civil engineering and consulting firm FDE, and Woburn, Mass.-based GEI Consultants have successfully constructed and assembled the first prototype “French Dam,” a modular precast impoundment for construction and retrofit of hydroelectric dams, water control systems and power houses.

The 24-ft. long x 16-ft. high prototype, designed by GEI Consultants in cooperation with Oldcastle Precast, consists of six 27,000-lb. concrete 8- x 8-ft. blocks interconnected with each other forming one monolithic structure. Upon arriving from Oldcastle’s plant in Avon, Ct., the dam was assembled in less than 3.5 hours.

“This technology for precast dams can significantly decrease time, reduce cost and minimize risk of the civil stage of the construction process, making it more feasible and attractive to investors, developers and dam owners,” says Lenny Lozinsky, executive vice president, FDE.

FDE’s patented technology for Rapid Dam Construction was funded for $1.7 million in January 2016 by the United States Department of Energy (U.S. DOE) under the funding opportunity “Research and Development of Innovative Technologies for Low Impact Hydropower Development" (DE-FOA-0001286.)

“The French Dam will be a game changer for the hydro industry,” affirms Bill French Sr., president of FDE. “It simply replaces traditional construction methods with off-site manufacturing and on-site installation, making the entire process just-in-time ready and weather independent.”

The construction of the prototype of the modular hydro dam comes three months after the U.S. DOE released its Hydropower VISION report, which recommended modular approaches to new in-stream hydropower facilities. In the report, the U.S. DOE proposes a “suite of modular components for foundation, generation and stream passage may be considered and fit together to meet site-specific parameters as well as environmental and power generation objectives.”

“We believe the French Dam has ultimate flexibility and includes a sophisticated and innovative approach, making it adaptable for almost every type of site conditions for construction of new and retrofit small/medium hydroelectric, water control systems and power houses in the United States,” says Varoujan Hagopian, PE, senior consultant, GEI Consultants.

“Precast concrete is one of world’s most functional and versatile building materials,” says Bob Kramer, vice president of Marketing and Product Development, Oldcastle Precast. “Manufactured in a controlled environment gives you the end result of a cost-effective and reliable solution. It is exciting to see its application as an innovative technology in the construction of hydro dams.”