About Zachary Matson

Zachary Matson has been an environmental reporter for the Explorer since October 2021. He is focused on the many issues impacting water and the people, plants and wildlife that rely on it in the Adirondack Park. Zach worked at daily newspapers in Missouri, Arizona and New York for nearly a decade, most recently working as the education reporter for six years at the Daily Gazette in Schenectady.

Reader Interactions

Comments

  1. Tom Paine says

    Must be NYS hydro generated electricity does not fit into the green religious doctrine. Oh that’s right, only when it is generated in another country is it considered acceptable. Maybe if you put more cash in the plate the next time it is passed around things will change.

    • K. Arthur says

      Maybe that is because the green religion is also known as NIMBY. New York State isn’t the only one practicing energy bigotry. The federal energy regulator, FERC, requires expensive and time consuming federal licensing on any size hydro, even home scale, yet megawatt solar and wind do not need FERC licensing. You can put home solar on your roof or a small windmill in your field with only local approvals. If you want to tap the energy from a water source on your property you will need the federal license…….and that home scale hydro requires the same federal license as a 5 Mega Watt powerplant. It is a rigged system.

  2. JB says

    This very sensible petition hints at some of the larger problems with the New York renewable energy strategy, which is over reliant on short-term, underbid subsidies for utility-scale solar projects. Though there are only enough legacy DER hydro projects in NYS to supply about 1% of current annual electricity load for Upstate (not to mention that the legislation like the Wild, Scenic and Recreational Rivers Act prevents future hydro development in much of the Adirondacks), this is significant considering that all utility-scale solar projects in the state combined currently produce less than 2x that! Moreover, if we lack the framework to offer long-term, sustainable support for existing hydro resources, then how can we be sure that solar projects will not face similar problems in the future? Subsidizing the lowest bidder and rushing projects through regulatory processes without larger market interventions or long-term, big-picture goals — as NYS is doing for utility-scale solar (among other things!) — is only shifting environmental and social costs onto future generations.

  3. Boreas says

    NYS seems OK with keeping dams and reservoirs for recreation, but try to put a generator on it and it becomes evil. It isn’t the old, decommissioned generators that are evil, but the old, dam designs.

    It isn’t impossible to rebuild or alter many of our current dams to allow proper fish/invertebrate travel. They can also be set up to flush every spring. But cheap oil/coal became the lowest common denominator in energy supply long ago and hydro was forgotten. Might this have something to do with increased hydro regulation?? If some transmission ROWs still exist, wouldn’t this would be the time to rebuild dams to be more environmentally friendly? If there are unused/decommissioned generation facilities, why not crank them up again? Wouldn’t they at least help with short-term generation at lower cost than NEW wind/solar installations that also require more land use (often ignored!!) with NEW transmission lines?

    This is typical of politicians – “It is always better to build something NEW than fix what we have. Fixing stuff won’t get me re-elected!” These people need to go – vote accordingly.

    • Boreas says

      Leroy,

      In the past, the dams were built to maximize blockage of the river to maximize control of the flow. The owners never wanted the generators to be idle, so required large impoundments. It is possible to engineer hydro without completely blocking rivers. Allowing flow for passage of aquatic organisms and periodic flushing is not impossible, just needs to be designed into the project.

  4. Pete says

    It is unlikely there will be new dams built because of environmental concerns. But it is crazy not to utilize all the existing hydropower, which is far superior to solar and wind because it is produced 24/7. The existing dams are also far less environmentally disturbing than building solar or wind farms. The dams do not take farmland out of crop production, are not the eyesores of solar and wind farms, and cause no other additional environmental disturbance. Hydropower producers should be given the same incentives as other renewable energy producers. If fish migration is a concern, then address that problem by modification or redesign when rebuilding a dam, but the fact is that the dams exist and the hydropower should be used.

    • Boreas says

      Pete,

      I agree – environmental concerns will hinder new dams. But most of these concerns are front and center because of historically environmentally unfriendly construction. Simple dams blocking nearly all natural flow. Heavy-handed areas flooded on indigenous people’s lands.

      But there are indeed some environmental benefits by properly-designed dams. Think beavers. Do we feel they harm the environment? Just the opposite. We just need to think and build like beavers. Impoundments don’t need to be deep lakes. Relatively shallow marshes and swamps hold a great deal of water as well and improve aquifers. They may not be able to generate as efficiently as deep-water reservoirs, but they also provide positive ecological benefits unrelated to power. Many poorly-producing forests and farmlands could be turned into productive swamps, marshes, and pond networks.

      Staunch anti-hydro environmentalists just need to be re-educated to the potential benefits to thinking like beavers when we think of dams. Beavers wouldn’t even consider building the Hoover Dam.

  5. Boreas says

    Alternate forms of energy like solar and wind are great ideas, but have major limitations that are often ignored. How long is a winter night in the north? When do we need that energy the most? No solar generation at night. Wind, of course, requires a certain amount of wind to generate. Energy storage as well as transmission need to be addressed. I personally don’t feel these stopgap technologies should be relied on or billed as future major players in round-the-clock power sources. For that, we need to be re-thinking hydro and nuclear and how we can mitigate their downsides.

    Hydro just requires flowing water and a generator. Some hydro generation involves pumping water uphill into ponds/reservoirs during time of lower energy demands to maintain the proper head pressure for generation. Less efficient, yes, but can work well with a more natural flow of a river.

    Nuke plants have been demonized irrationally in the past – largely by fossil fuel proponents stoking public fears. They certainly aren’t without risk or toxic by-products, but how many poorly-designed dams have breached in the past? How many rivers have been harmed by poor design? How many tons of poison have been put into the atmosphere daily with fossil fuel plants over the years?

    Energy generation and transmission have never been benign. Of course we need to mitigate any negatives produced by ANY power source – including manufacturing the units. But the first step we need to take is to remove the immense, ever-present pressures the fossil fuel industry places on government and public propaganda. The tail is wagging the dog. Until this influence peddling is gone, there can be no level playing field for alternative sources of energy.

  6. Dave Ritchie says

    This petition’s request seems to be right in line with the CLCPA goals, and should be granted! No way should we lose these invaluable hydro generators of clean power! Governor Hochul, take note!

  7. Bret says

    The only viable answer to providing the amounts of power the world requires is nuclear, preferable SMR’s, some which use nuclear “waste” as fuel. But the $$$ will flow to wherever the politicians and their masters have it invested.

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