Growing up in Cobleskill, Jonathan DiCesare has long had an idea. Why not use the creek that flows through the village’s Veterans Memorial Centre Park for power?
“I’ve always walked by the park, and I’ve seen the water and thought: Why doesn’t someone use it,” he said.
Now a sophomore at Boston University, DiCesare is nearing the culmination of a four-year-long project to do just that — harness the energy in the village’s Mill Creek, generating enough electricity to power the park’s lights and more.
He and a team of friends, an engineer, his dad and a boom truck operator Saturday morning worked with a pair from the Water Wheel Factory in North Carolina to install the project’s star player: the water wheel.
The wheel, 11 feet tall and 5 feet wide, had to be lowered into the creek one piece at a time. Handing out instructions and brainstorming strategy, DiCesare managed the effort with maturity and ease.
“We have a lot of little pieces, and the little pieces weigh 150 pounds,” DiCesare said.
DiCesare said the water wheel, which will be painted fire truck red, would hopefully be in place by today. He will still need to hook up the electrical generator, but once that is complete, the wheel is expected to produce two kilowatts of power, enough to power the energy needs of two households.
The idea started out as an Eagle Scout project and has grown to include a mill house and the water wheel, which will be hooked into nearby power lines and feed electricity back to the grid.
DiCesare’s dad, also Jonathan, estimated the project has cost nearly $45,000, including volunteer labor, around $9,000 of donated engineering services from local civil engineer Brendon Becker, and the purchase of the water wheel for more than $10,000.
“At first, I told him he was crazy,” Becker said. “But he was determined enough to move forward with it.”
The father and son team traveled across the region in search of donations, visiting with Chamber of Commerce representatives and pitching for donations from venture capitalists.
“He got comfortable wearing a suit and tie,” the father said.
Seeded with their first donation — $6 they received from some neighboring campers while on a trip to Glacier National Park — DiCesare raised more than $20,000 from businesses, friends, local teachers and others. Fenimore Asset Management, a Cobleskill financial planning firm, donated $5,000.
But the fundraising effort isn’t complete. DiCesare is looking to raise another $10,000, soliciting donations at gofundme.com/cobleskilldam and on his Cobleskill Dam Facebook page.
“You think that something is really simple, but the devil is in the details,” he said. “You think you have it all set, and you go to do it and nothing goes as planned … It’s been an adventure.”
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Categories: News, Schenectady County