There's no reason for the Federal Regulatory Commission not to grant Universal Electric Power Corp. of Akron another three years to study the feasibility of building a small electric plant at the Shenango Dam. Universal, which has been in business for 51/2 years and has one site like the Shenango Dam in Akron and will open three others in Michigan and Wisconsin within three months, missed an April 9 deadline for completion of the Shenango study because it was concentrating on other projects.
It has filed an application for another three-year permit, which should be approved expeditiously. This is a company that has a proven track record and is prepared to spend $200,000 to find out whether the dam can accommodate the kind of power plant that's being considered.
The study will show whether company officials are on the right track when they say that the dam might support a power plant capable of generating 1,510 megawatts of electricity on a regular basis. Such output would provide enough electricity to a community with a population of slightly over 1,000.
The U.S. Army Corps of Engineers, which has no objections to Universal's completing the study, does not share the company's view of the dam's potential. The corps says that the late summer flow from the dam is so low that building a turbine-powered operation to generate electricity probably isn't feasible.
Now is the time to test the agency's assumptions, which is why the Federal Regulatory Commission should give Universal permission to immediately proceed with the study. It will take about a year to complete, after which the company will decide if the findings justify the investment of capital.
The company is conducting other studies to develop power plants near navigation locks on the Allegheny River in the Armstrong and Allegheny County region.
Based on its expertise and experience with other plants, Universal says the electricity generated at the Shenango Dam plant could be sold to a utility company or to private business and industry.
On the other hand, the company has the wherewithal to develop the power-generating turbines and could build its own power station and then sell it to a utility company.
It is obvious that Universal Electric is serious about expanding its operations and addressing the energy needs of communities in this region.
With the United States in the midst of an energy crisis because of its overdependence on foreign oil, companies like Universal Electric are becoming increasingly important in this nation's drive towards self-sufficiency.
And from a public policy standpoint, these types of projects deserve the support of government because they don't cost the taxpayers anything.