An electric cooperative in New York has helped state and local officials keep more than 1,000 jobs in an area ravaged by storms and flooding last fall. The co-op will use low-cost hydroelectric power to serve a new industrial account that will triple its overall commercial and industrial load.
We were ground zero for Hurricane Irene and Tropical Storm Lee in the state of New York last October, said Greg Starheim, CEO and general manager of Delaware County Electric Cooperative, Delhi, N.Y. The Amphenol Aerospace Operations facility in Sydney suffered significant flooding.
Company officials considered abandoning the state, Starheim said, after more than five feet of water flooded computerized machine tools used to manufacture interconnection switches for military aircraft and NASA’s space program. Repair and replacement was estimated at $20 million.
The timing of the floods presented an opportunity for the co-op, coming one month after a major legislative victory for New York’s four electric co-ops. They worked with elected officials in the New York legislature, the governors office and local officials in changing a law that limited electric co-ops to serving communities with populations under 1,000.
We were successful in getting the law changed so that we can now provide service to incorporated communities with populations of up to 20,000, said Starheim. It mirrors language contained in the 2008 farm bill that NRECA supported and helped get passed into law.
While the aerospace company has been served by an investor-owned utility for decades, a new site selected for a new manufacturing facility does not currently have power. State officials included the co-op’s proposal to build a new substation in a $20 million incentive package designed to help keep the company from leaving the area.
The New York Power Authority committed 2,300 kilowatts of power supply from its Niagara Hydroelectric Power Station to handle the needs of the co-op’s newest, and largest, metered account. That’s approximately 50 percent of the anticipated load of the facility, said Starheim. The low-cost hydroelectric power is expected to save them about 15 percent on their energy costs as long as they continue to operate in the area.
The company is building 270,000 square feet of new manufacturing and office space that will house about 1,100 manufacturing and support workers.
Amphenol Aerospace, one of Delaware Countys most significant employers, will continue to call New York State home, said Gov. Andrew Cuomo. It will remain an integral part of the community and the economy.
This story, written by Derrill Holly, first appeared in ECT.coop, an NRECA publication, on April 24th, 2012.