An Alternative Energy Series, Hydroelectric in the Twin Tiers

Local News

ITHACA, N.Y. (WETM)- Forms of renewable energy is one of the fastest growing energy sources, accounting for around two-thirds of the increase in global power. Hydroelectric has provided clean energy in New York State since the first operational plant was built in the late 1800s in Schenectady.

There are a total of 345 hydroelectric plants that are presently operational across New York. At Cornell University, they are the only university across the nation to have an operating plant on site. The plant was first constructed in the late 1880s before being updated in the early 1900s.

“From when this came online in 1904 until probably in the 1920s this was the only electricity Cornell had,” said Frank Perry, Plant Program Manager.

The plant at Cornell is known as “run of river,” meaning there is no stored water. Due to this, on days when there is less than ten cubic feet of water passing over the dam the plant must shut down.

Water from Beebe Lake is ushered through an intake bay, which will filter out any debris that may be in the water. The water then drops 140 feet vertically to the turbine intakes.

“We have a 140 feet of pad here or a column of water 140 feet high. So that’s stored energy, so as we dump that through, a turbine that turns are turning a generator at the same time, with that energy of flowing water,” said Perry.

New York is currently the largest producer of hydroelectricity East of the Rockies. Cornell periodically provides tours of the plant for incoming students and school children in the community. There is a way you can take a peak at the plant, along Rim Trail there is a suspension bridge that will give you a birds eye view of the plant.

“Last year we made three and a half percent of Cornell’s power with hydro,” said Perry.

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