GLENS FALLS, N.Y. (NEWS10) – Where the Schroon River passes through the town of Warrensburg, a hydroelectricity plant has harnessed the power of rushing water since 1988. This week, further south in the same county, the city of Glens Falls has announced a new way it will be tapping into what’s generated by its neighbor to the north.
On Thursday, the city announced the launch of its new Community Hydro Project, running in cooperation with a pair of renewable energy organizations that have been working together further into the Adirondacks for the last two years. The program offers businesses and homes around the city the chance to prioritize cleaner energy, all without a hike in costs.
“The city of Glens Falls is what we call the ‘anchor customer’ – they’re the biggest subscriber to the project,” said Emmett Smith, co-owner of renewable electricity provider Northern Power & Light. “They’re the biggest subscriber to the project, but now we need residents and businesses to sign on as well. We need small businesses and homeowners to step up and buy authentic, renewable energy.”
Northern Power & Light has been working with fellow energy provider Boralex since 2021, when the two established renewable hydro-based energy at the Sissonville Plant on the Racquette River in the town of Potsdam. That plant and the one in Warrensburg are both owned and operated by Boralex, with Northern Power & Light directing the power to customers.
The city of Glens Falls is now one of those customers, signed on as a customer for municipal buildings, streetlights, and anything else municipality-owned. Now, the program is calling on all residents and small businesses in the city to see if the switch could be right for them. The providers say there aren’t a lot of reasons why it couldn’t be.
For those who sign up, it will still be National Grid sending the monthly bills. Smith explained that National Grid doesn’t generate power itself – it just directs it from providers to consumers. The key term for the Glens Falls project is “community-distributed generation” – effectively, the ability of city residents and businesses to choose exactly where National Grid is pulling from, and to choose local. Customers get credited based on how much power the hydro plant puts out, and pay their standard bill against that.
“Think of a farmers market,” said Boralex Hydro Operations Director Erik Bergman. “If you’re a dairy farmer, and you’re selling your milk to a large collective, you’re going to get a much smaller amount. If you go through the added steps of retailing it somewhere like (the Glens Falls Farmers Market) on South Street, you’re going to have a brand and a connection to a community, and that garners a premium. That’s what we’ve tried to do here.”
While individual customers get cleaner energy at the same price, the city itself gets a bonus for leading the way. Glens Falls Economic Development Director Jeff Flagg said the city’s first bill with the Community Hydro Project showed about $2,000 in savings – around 5% of what the city uses in a month. That money represents city taxes that can now be spent elsewhere.
The city itself may be the program’s first customer, but it’s not the only one. The Queensbury Hotel, Charles R. Wood Theater, and Pure n’ Simple Foods are among a few city businesses to get on the train early.
There’s a long way to go, even in a small city of 14,000 – but the outlook is bright. Flagg said that even if every building across Glens Falls were to become part of the hydro program, they would only use about 30% of what the Warrensburg dam produces. The longer the project goes on, the more the city has the potential to do with it.
“You have to make these hard connections, because right now, power goes into the grid and just goes where it goes,” said Flagg. “If there were an ice storm, lines might go down, but power would still be produced. In fact, they would have to shut down the dam, because they can’t direct power into a station that can’t handle it. What we would like to do, ultimately, is make some hard connections to places like Glens Falls Hospital or the Glens Falls Wastewater Treatment Plant, so that critical facilities can stay up.”
Interested city residents can visit Northern Power & Light online to learn more and sign up. Registration requires a current National Grid account.