The principle behind hydropower is simple: falling water drives a turbine which is connected to an electric generator. In New York State, various hydroelectric plants have been in operation for over a century. A hydro installation can be categorized as either conventional or run-of-the-river. Conventional systems involve storing water in dams to control the volume of power produced. Run-of-the-river systems involve little or no storage. Instead, a large pipe or penstock diverts water to the turbine and returns it to the river downstream. Though both systems provide a source of clean and renewable energy, run-of-the-river facilities tend to have less of an environmental impact. 

Massena, NY is home to the St. Lawrence-Franklin Delano Roosevelt Power project. The largest hydro plant in St. Lawrence County, this conventional hydro plant generates 820,800 kilowatts of power. The Robert Moses-Robert H. Saunders Power Dam, built by NYPA and Ontario Hydro, includes 32 turbine generators, with each utility operating half. 

Hydropower can also be paired with intermittent renewables such as solar as a means to balance supply and demand in the grid. During periods of low-demand, surplus solar energy can be used to pump water from a low elevation to a high elevation. Later, when demand is high, the water is released through turbines to produce power. The system is like a battery, except that the energy is stored in the form of gravitational potential energy instead of chemical potential energy. 

For more information on how hydropower works, watch the video below. 

Last updated April 10, 2018