Delaware County Electric Cooperative wants to build a four-unit powerhouse at the base of New York City's Schoharies reservoir Dam to produce 23.5 Megawatts of power.
By Derrill Holly | This article is reprinted with permission from ECT.coop.
State politicians are backing the efforts of a New York co-op to become a major supplier of hydroelectric power to the Catskill Mountains region by harnessing New York City’s water reservoir system.
Officials of Delaware County Electric Cooperative, Delhi, N.Y., said the planned project, utilizing water that spills over the reservoir system’s earthen dams, could produce enough power to serve the needs of 20,000 households.
“Four of those earthen dam reservoirs are in our service territory, and the water that goes over the spillways could produce affordable power that would be good for the region’s economy,” said Greg J. Starheim, the co-op’s CEO and general manager.
The project would involve building siphons and penstocks on the existing dams to channel water to turbine-generators that would be housed below the bases of the dams.
“We’re basically using New York City’s existing reservoirs and water that they are currently spilling over the dams,” said Starheim.
The water that flows through the aqueduct system supplying the nation’s most populous city with clean, fresh water would not be used.
The 63 megawatts of peak power produced would surpass the current needs of Delaware County EC’s 5,100 consumer-members in four upstate New York counties. Surplus power would be sold to the state’s other co-ops and new member accounts the cooperative envisions serving under an energy supply arrangement.
Delaware County EC submitted a preliminary application for the Western Catskills Hydro Project to the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission in May. As part of the FERC licensing process, numerous environmental, archeological and other licensing studies could begin in 2009.
Meanwhile, the co-op has won support for the project from local and state elected officials and members of Congress.
“The development of hydro plants that convert the release and spillover of water from these reservoirs into a clean, sustainable form of energy will produce benefits to the surrounding communities,” Sen. Charles Schum¬er, D-N.Y., wrote in a letter to the head of New York City’s Department of Environmental Protection.
In similar letters to the agency, Sen. Hillary Rodham Clinton, D-N.Y., called the projects “the type of innovative clean energy solutions we must encourage.”
Rep. Kirsten Gillibrand, D-N.Y., whose district includes Delaware County EC, described the proposals as “economic development projects” that will help achieve a goal of “generating 15 percent of the state’s electricity from renewable sources.”
City officials are reviewing the co-op’s plans, which they have characterized as “an interesting proposal.”
With the necessary approvals, construction could begin in 2011, with operations beginning the following year.