Council Mulls Hydropower Within City's Water Infrastructure

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Mention hydropower and images of massive dams and turbines come to mind. But some local lawmakers are taking aim at a smaller and less visible scale: inside the city’s infrastructure for water supply and wastewater treatment.

More than one billion gallons of drinking water are delivered daily to the city from upstate reservoirs, some more than 125 miles away. Since that water is driven almost entirely by gravity, energy from its flow can be harnessed, something the city of Boulder, Colorado, has been doing since the 1980s.

The idea to tap into homegrown renewable energy is an enticing one for Councilman James Gennaro, who chairs the Council's Environmental Protection Committee. He’s introduced a bill to require the city to undertake an assessment and demonstration projects on the subject.

At a Council hearing Monday, officials from the city’s Department of Environmental Protection said the agency has started working with the Idaho National Laboratory to assess the city’s hydropower potential as a result of the Council’s interest in the subject, but called the bill a premature one that would limit the agency’s flexibility to continue its work in this area.

Meanwhile, representatives from the energy industry, including the company currently building out a pilot project to power parts of Roosevelt Island with turbines in the East River, testified in support for the bill.

A spokesman for Councilmember Gennaro said the Council will review testimony and work with stakeholders to improve the bill in the coming weeks.