New York is the largest hydroelectric power producer east of the Rocky Mountains and is fourth in the nation in the generation of electricity from hydropower. More than 300 hydroelectric generating stations – some very small, a few very large and many in between — connect to New York’s electric grid. Hydro plants typically meet at least 17 percent of the state’s total electricity demand with renewable, clean and inexpensive power.
In a hydroelectric power plant, turbines that are run by moving water generate electricity with no greenhouse gas emissions and little pollution of any kind. Hydropower has provided electricity to New York since the first generating plant opened at Niagara Falls more than a century ago. Reliable and able to quickly increase or decrease power output, hydro generation helps to stabilize the electric grid and support less-flexible sources of renewable energy. Some facilities even can store energy for later use.
Hydropower is among the most cost effective of all electricity sources, because its “fuel” – flowing water – is local and is replenished whenever it rains or snows, the price of hydroelectricity usually remains stable even as markets for other fuels fluctuate.Hydropower generation converts the energy of moving water into electricity. A wide choice of technologies and scales gives hydro the ability to meet both large centralized urban electricity needs and decentralized rural needs.
Today, conventional hydropower stations generate nearly nine-tenths of all the renewable energy produced in New York. The New York Power Authority (NYPA) owns the two biggest plants, the Niagara River and St. Lawrence Power Projects. These two publicly-owned plants contribute far and away the largest share of New York’s total hydroelectricity generation. The remainder of New York’s hydroelectricity comes from numerous small plants, a few owned by NYPA or municipal governments, some by institutions or industries, and many others by private companies whose business is selling electricity to the grid. A 2011 enumeration found a total of 345 conventional hydropower station units operating in the state.