Hydro projects sought at dams

Daily Star, Oneonta

By Patricia Breakey
Delhi News Bureau

The Delaware County Electric Cooperative is seeking to harness water spilling from four New York City reservoirs to produce enough electricity to power 20,000 typical homes.

Greg Starheim, DCEC chief executive officer, said an application for a preliminary permit and a pre-application document were submitted to the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission last month.

Starheim said the proposed Western Catskills Hydro Project would involve installing modular design independent intake structures at New York City's Schoharie, Pepacton, Cannonsville and Neversink reservoirs.

"I am very excited about this project," Starheim said Thursday. "We started evaluating the potential to produce electricity at the Gilboa Dam a year and a half ago." The New York City Department of Environmental Protection's $600 million renovation project for the Gilboa Dam was the impetus for the idea, Starheim said.

"The timing seemed appropriate and we began discussing the preliminary engineering with DEP engineers, which led to the decision to formerly approach the DEP about submitting an application to the FERC," Starheim said.

"DCEC has reached out to DEP with an interesting proposal; we look forward to reviewing it and to further discussing it," Michael Saucier, DEP public affairs director, said Thursday.

Starheim said there are no generating facilities at the four dams included in the project.

"There is a tremendous loss of potential energy and the DCEC board is very interested in capturing it," Starheim said. "This has been a missed opportunity for hydro electric generation and in today's energy world, we can't afford to miss opportunities."

The decision to move ahead with the application process came about when DCEC officials became aware that two private international developers were interested in generating projects at two of the reservoirs.

"The way the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission works is that whoever applies first has an opportunity to pursue the project," Starheim said. "We were concerned about local projects being operated by outside companies."

Starheim said obtaining a federal license is a long process that involves numerous studies and structure milestones, but the Co-op is hopeful that the license will be issued as early as 2011. He said construction and operation would take a year or two after that.

"This is the single largest non-developed hydro project in New York and it would help the state achieve its renewable energy quota," Starheim said.

The amount of electricity generated at the dams would be seasonal and dependent on the amount of water being released.

Starheim said there would be different numbers of modular generating devices at each of the reservoirs, with the greatest potential at the Gilboa Dam. The total design potential would be to general 65 megawatts during peak water time in the spring.

The devices would be installed over the top of the dam and would run all the way to the bottom where the water is released into the rivers. Starheim said the Co-op is only interested in using available water and will not be involved in decisions about how much water is released.

The project is part of the Delaware County Electric Cooperative's effort to explore ways to secure its entire electricity supply using renewable local energy sources.


Patricia Breakey can be reached at 746-2894 or at [email protected].

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