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Byllesby and Buck plants going strong after 100 years

by on June 24, 2013

(Story by Teresa Hamilton Hall)

More than 100 years after they first generated electricity, the Byllesby and Buck hydroelectric plants continue to provide reliable electricity to Appalachian Power’s customers.

Appalachian Power Company’s Buck hydroelectric facility.

According to the book, And There Was Light, the story of American Electric Power, its First 85 years 1906-1991, the plants on the New River in Carroll County, Va., actually got their start in Chicago. That’s where the investment firm H.M. Byllesby & Company set out to build power generating sites to serve the coal fields around Bluefield, W.Va. Several potential plant sites were identified by the New York engineering firm of Viele, Blackwell & Buck. Two of the sites, Byllesby and Buck, were the first to generate electricity in 1912.

Turn-of-the-century construction practices were laborious, but gritty, tough Italian immigrants used manual labor and the occasional oxen to build the dams that have stood the test of time.

Situated about four miles apart, the Byllesby reservoir is approximately three miles long, while the dam at Buck forms a reservoir about one-mile long. The Byllesby Plant is capable of generating 20 megawatts (MW) while Buck can generate 10 MW. In the first year of operation, the plants provided electricity to more than 1,500 customers.

Byllesby and Buck hydros play an important part in Appalachian Power’s history. They were among the first sources of electricity for customers in the region, and the company that owned them was ultimately purchased by American Gas and Electric in 1926 and became part of AGE’s subsidiary Appalachian Electric Power, predecessor to today’s Appalachian Power.

One Comment
  1. Would love to see pictures of the reservoirs and surrounding countryside!

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