Since 1897, the Hudson River has surged through a hydro plant in Mechanicville. Its original equipment, thanks to upkeep and maintenance, continues to operate today, running smoothly enough that a nickel can be balanced next to its giant turbines.
“It supplied all of the electricity,” said Albany Engineering Corp. President Jim Bescha. “It was the only electric plant for Albany, Schenectady, Troy, the street car system to Glens Falls, the entire General Electric factory works and any factory in the area.”
Though the plant is 122 years old, Bescha says it can help solve a distinctly 21st century problem: Fighting climate change by shifting New York to renewable sources of energy in the coming decades.
“Retaining these is extremely important,” Bescha said. “It makes no sense to build new renewable plants whether they are hydro, solar or wind and let the old be abandoned. You've already got this plant here. You just have to maintain it, making capital investment in it and it will keep operating for the next 122 years.”
State lawmakers earlier this year approved legislation meant to promote and support renewable energy sources that are already functioning. Albany Engineering's plant currently generates 3 megawatts of electricity, but could potentially generate 15 megawatts. It operates with minimal staff and can be monitored using a smartphone.
Bescha says hydro power is an abundant resource for New York.
“It's here for the taking,” Bescha stated. “Existing dams, existing water, we're blessed with rainfall and snowfall in New York State and we should utilize it.”
The bill that bolsters existing renewable resources is seen as a companion measure to a broader climate change fighting measure Governor Cuomo signed into law last month. The new law is meant to shift New York to renewable sources of energy by 2040.
“New York State has many plants like this, probably over 150 or 200 plants, some smaller or larger. Every community probably has hydro in it in New York State,” said Bescha.
The bill meant to support existing renewable energy sources is awaiting the governor's approval.