CHURCHTOWN–The Hudson Valley Smart Energy Coalition invited the public to an event Saturday at the Churchtown Firehouse to present a report that calls into question the need for power line upgrades throughout the region.
The power lines issue has been ongoing for over a year. As part of Governor Andrew Cuomo’s Energy Highway initiative to bring more electrical power to the New York City metropolitan area and Long Island, the state has identified 153 miles of lines to be upgraded, including lines through the Towns of Stuyvesant, Stockport, Livingston and Claverack in Columbia County.
The coalition is a joint effort started by various local organizations concerned about the prospect losing land to the project through eminent domain proceedings as well as the visual impacts on Hudson Valley viewsheds of the proposed towers, which would be larger than the existing ones. Utility companies and power line entities have submitted competing bids to the state for the right to run the lines.
Ian Solomon, head of Farmers and Families of Claverack, one of the organizations in the coalition, said the reason for Saturday’s meeting was a “big reveal.” Dr. Gidon Eshel, a Bard College research professor with a PhD in physics, reportedly spent over 350 hours compiling a report that challenges the reason given for upgrading the lines.
“Is there a need for this upgrade? Emphatically no!” Prof. Eshel said.
In his report, using publically available data, he compiled the energy usage and needs from the last 21 years to compile a model that he said can predict future energy needs. He then compared that data to the power available if only half the upcoming energy expansion projects outlined on the state Public Service Commission’s website are completed. His calculations show that even the highest anticipated demand for power would not exceed the power resources that would be available to downstate customers.
“One of Cuomo’s big pushes is to close the Indian Point nuclear facility,” Prof. Eshel said at Saturday’s gathering. “Well, he can do that. My research shows that even closing down Indian Point, the state will still have more than enough power.”
The professor’s graphs show that for decades to come the downstate region will be able to meet peak load with no new construction.
He also challenged arguments that the upgrades would help increase security in the event of a terrorist attack, saying the new lines would make the power grid more vulnerable and showed where he believes grid upgrades for security need to be made.
“More people have to know about this,” said Hudson Common Council President Don Moore, who was in the audience.
No members of the companies proposing the lines spoke at the event.
Mr. Solomon said that Prof. Eshel had given the coalition “free reign” to use his work, which the professor donated.
The goal of the expansion is to bring electricity generated by wind energy from the western part of the state down to New York City. The New York Independent Service Operator (NYISO), which manages the electricity grid in the state, has identified a bottleneck of energy supply in the Mid-Hudson Valley, a situation the new lines are intended to correct.
But Prof. Eshel’s research indicates that brownouts occur in New York City only at peak use hours in the summer. “What we have is not a case of bottlenecked energy but a case of inefficient air conditioners in Brooklyn,” he said.
After presenting his findings Prof. Eshel and Mr. Solomon were joined by Dan Dauthie, an engineer hired by the coalition, and Will Yandik, a Livingston councilman, for a question and answer period. One audience member asked the professor whether he had done any health studies regarding the impact of the upgrades.
“I have a PhD in geophysics, and I knowingly bought a house 1,000 feet from a tower,” he said at the meeting. When contacted afterwards, Prof. Elsher said that he had read the literature on possible health effects of transmission lines but that his work and the findings he was presenting focus exclusively on whether there is a need for the proposed upgrade. He said the facts show there is not.
Mr. Solomon said copies of the report would be sent to lawmakers and members of the state Public Service Commission (PSC).
Assemblywoman Didi Barrett (D-106th), Assemblyman Pete Lopez (R-102nd), all the members of the Claverack Town Board, Supervisor Ron Knott (R-Stuyvesant), and several other members of the Livingston Town Board as well as Brian Howard, a candidate for state Senate in the 43rd District, attended the meeting.
Mr. Solomon said the Coalition invited members of the PSC to attend but as of the closing of the meeting he had not seen any in attendance. The PSC is currently in the process of evaluating the proposals for the new lines and the public comments on the plans.
Jim Denn, the PSC’s director of public relations, could not be reached for in time for publication.