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Blenheim-Gilboa Power Project gets 50-year license renewal

Blenheim-Gilboa Power Project gets 50-year license renewal

Federal license includes $70 million in benefits to surrounding area
Blenheim-Gilboa Power Project gets 50-year license renewal
The Blenheim-Gilboa Pumped Storage Power Project is shown in 2014
Photographer: Gazette file photo

GILBOA — The Blenheim-Gilboa Pumped Storage Power Project has received federal authorization to operate for another 50 years.

The Federal Energy Regulatory Commission issued the new license Tuesday for the facility. The New York Power Authority, which operates it, announced the move Wednesday.

Construction of the facility began in 1969 and it went online in 1973. It pumps water from a reservoir on the Schoharie Creek to a mountaintop reservoir 1,042 feet above the creek and then dumps it back down to the lower reservoir through turbines, generating up to 1,160 megawatts of electricity to help meet peak or sudden demands for power within the state.

The facility consumes more electricity than it generates but the pumping is done during off-peak hours, when electricity is much cheaper, so it operates at a net profit.

As the original license neared expiration, local governments pressed for a better host community agreement. This was achieved through a deal to provide more than $60 million to local governments and emergency agencies over the course of the half-century agreement, though some were disappointed that most of the money will go to the sparsely populated towns of Blenheim and Gilboa.

Other host-community benefits include:

  • $4 million for capital improvements at Mine Kill State Park;
  • Continued protection and support of Lansing Manor, the historic house on the B-G Visitors Center campus;
  • $1.5 million for fishery habitat improvement projects in the upper reservoir;
  • $2 million for ecological enhancement in the Schoharie Creek watershed;
  • Revised operating procedures for Schoharie Creek outflows;
  • $250,000 a year to support the U.S. Geological Survey’s installation, operation and maintenance of Schoharie Creek monitoring gauges.

In a NYPA news release, Schoharie County Board of Supervisors Chairman Earl Van Wormer III said: “The Power Authority has been here for 50 years and they have been a good neighbor, we have a good relationship with them. Schoharie County looks forward to working with NYPA to find new ways to grow our relationship during the next 50 years.” 

NYPA said the Blenheim-Gilboa plant has played a vital role in stabilizing the power grid during periods of peak demand and will play a vital role in the Green New Deal, Gov. Andrew Cuomo’s drive to reduce greenhouse gas emissions by 40 percent below 1990 levels by the year 2030.

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