Firm to seek permits for hydro plan along Mohawk River

Eyeing eight dams that make up a portion of the state Canal System, an Albany engineering firm pl


Eyeing eight dams that make up a portion of the state Canal System, an Albany engineering firm plans to pursue a permit to draw 42 kilowatts of new energy from the Mohawk River, enough to power roughly 40,000 homes.

The Albany Engineering Corp.’s Middle Mohawk project proposes to place turbine powerhouses on the dams impounding water at Erie Canal Locks 8 through 15 on the Mohawk River in Schenectady and Montgomery counties.

Under the name of its subsidiary, the Mohawk Hydro Corp., the company led by engineer James Besha first received federal permission to study the idea in 2003.

Preliminary permits issued by the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission, which allow for feasibility research, are set to expire next year.

Besha this week said the company intends to carry forward with the next step: a request for a license application.

“We’re heading into the final stretch, as it were. Finally, the regulatory phase is coming to a head,” Besha said.

Since the process began, several agencies and one nonprofit submitted letters with intent to intervene, which enables them to provide input and seek information on how the project could affect their interests.

These agencies include the state Department of Environmental Conservation, the state Canal Corp., the New York Power Authority, the U.S. Department of Interior and New York Rivers United, a non-profit river conservation organization.

According to the proposal, each of the eight dams would be fitted with a powerhouse with generators that would create electricity from the water crashing down on turbines. The structures could be towed to each site seasonally, anchored to the river’s floor and hooked up to transmission lines.

“The water is literally going over the dam to waste right now, so why not make some energy out of it?” Besha said.

Renderings depicting what the powerhouses would look like can be seen on the company’s Web site at

The state and federal governments are putting an emphasis and funding toward the development of renewable energy sources, but Besha said he’s not interested in getting government aid for a project that could yield revenue on its own.

“We have never sought, nor would we seek any kind of state or federal aid. I think [hyrdoelectric] projects can support themselves privately very well. If they’re meant to be economical, they’re meant to be economical without the government’s help,” Besha said.

Albany Engineering already owns or maintains seven hydroelectric plants, some of which the company rehabilitated and put back into use. These include the Mechanicville and Green Island plants on the Hudson River, and the Watervliet Hydroelectric Plant on the Normanskill.

The plant in Mechanicville, built in 1897, is considered the oldest continuously operating hydroelectric plant in the United States.

The company has two license applications pending for projects on Cohoes Falls and Stuyvesant Falls.

It’s unclear how long the license application process could take before a final decision would be made, according to the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission.

Requirements to apply for a license are more in-depth than those involved in a preliminary permit the company received to research feasibility, said Celeste Miller, a spokeswoman at FERC.

Categories: Schenectady County

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