Along the side of my property there is a running stream. I was wondering if you know of any wheel or pump, or anything that we can invest in that will generate energy and make our house more energy efficient. My hubby and I are very interested in becoming more and more green to help this planet and make it a cleaner and safer place for our children, grandchildren, and all future generations. We would greatly appreciate any info you can send our way. We love your Q&A column in New York House…wonderful. Thank you.
—Carmen and Robert O’Connor, Ancramdale A:Dear Carmen and Robert,
Thanks for your email. Generating energy from streams—microhydro—is uncommon in the Hudson Valley area. I personally have never heard of anybody doing this. Good question, considering how much power potential exists from moving water from all the creeks upstate—like the Roe Jan Kill in Columbia County, or Esopus Creek which rushes through Ulster County, gushing out into another potential energy source: the mighty Hudson River.
Mannajo Greene, environmental director of Clearwater, said she hadn’t seen microhydro projects in this region either, but was researching and considering it for Ulster County’s Rondout Creek to power water and sewage treatment plants. “If properly sited and installed, microhydro is an important part of the portfolio of renewable options that can help us transition away from our dependence on fossil fuel and nuclear power, to a cleaner, safer, more sustainable energy profile,” Greene explains. “Clearwater has long endorsed low impact hydro, which includes dams with fish ladders and microhydro systems that fish can easily avoid. Microhydro is ideal for cooperative housing projects or co-housing near a stream of adequate capacity to allow this clean, free form of energy generation with minimal impact on aquatic ecosystems. Earth Haven’s system in North Carolina works well and provides abundant power to the residents who cooperatively installed it.”
Ithaca’s Renovus Energy Web site has a list of micro hydro equipment manufacturers. Their Duncan Cooper concurred that microhydro is uncommon, because even with water features, most homes do not have viable sites and partially because of a general lack of support by government. “You cannot net meter the energy and sell it back to the grid, and there are no NYSERDA (New York State Energy Research and Development Authority) incentives either.” Permitting these systems “is essentially uncharted territory which, like small wind energy projects, may involve several authorities having jurisdiction including local planning and zoning boards, building departments, and NYS Department of Environmental Conservation (DEC).”
Hydropower suddenly reminds me of a childhood trip to Niagara Falls, a natural power source which helped birth the entire national electric grid and still generates power. It’s also reminding me of several waterfalls on the drive I take to High Falls, wondering how many houses in Marbletown could be powered by water.
If anyone reading this knows of local microhydro systems, we want to know. Please send us microhydro stories if you hear of any.
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