Madison County Oneida microhydro


The power of rushing water speaks to us on many levels.  But in today’s world of growing climate disruption, the potential energy of falling water whispers a promise of clean and reliable electricity for homes, farms, and businesses.

Sustainable Tompkins and its Lansing Communergy Group will host a workshop on the basics of microhydro installations on Saturday, May 3, from 12:30-5:00 pm at the Lansing Community Center at 29 Auburn Road.  The workshop will be followed by site visits to four potential microhydro development projects on nearby Gulf Creek and Salmon Creek.

The settlement pattern of European-Americans in the Finger Lakes Region shows their dependency on water for both transport and power; early maps record an astonishing diversity of mills along the region’s creeks to saw timber, grind grain, and enable all manner of commerce.  We lost sight of this locally-owned power source when the fossil fuel era began, but today’s climate reality, rising fossil fuel prices, and advances in microturbine design have all combined to bring this clean, free, and renewable power supply back into a viable position.

Phil Hofmeyer, Assistant Professor of Renewable Energy at SUNY Morrisville, will lead the workshop – reviewing the basic principles of operation of the small turbines and piping systems suitable for home energy production.  Hofmeyer and his students from the Renewable Energy Training Center in Morrisville have installed four microhydro systems in Madison County, with several more underway.  Graduates from the Training Center are available as installers and will be present for the workshop and tour.

Power production from microhydro systems is highly dependent on the flow characteristics of each creek site.  However, their electricity generation can be impressive because it runs around the clock.  For comparison, a 3-kilowatt solar electric array might generate around 3000 kWh per year; whereas a 1-kilowatt microhydro turbine might generate 8000 kWh per year.  NYS allows net metering for microhydro; so individual homeowners can “bank” extra electricity during the wet season to cover their needs when low water levels in the summer months decrease production.  Permits from DEC are needed on protected trout streams, but are generally obtainable as these “run of the river” microhydro systems can be designed for minimal disturbance.

The workshop and tour are free, but donations to cover costs are appreciated.  The public is invited and rural landowners with waterways on their property are encouraged to take advantage of this rare opportunity to learn about microhydro for their electricity needs.  The workshop session will be a brown bag lunch with beverages provided.