Genesis Verde

Photo Credit: State of New York Power Authority - To Be Used For The Purpose Of Research

I hear you singing in the wires
I can hear you though their whine...
And the Wichita Lineman, Is still on the line.

Wichita Lineman - Artist: Glen Campbell, Composer: Jimmy Webb. -  A classic!

Happy belated Earth Day!  Like so much in our life and culture, the The modern energy revolution is distributed, coalescing in locations like Brooklyn, where a secure, blockchain enabled market for energy sourced within a robust, solar powered microgrid enables individuals to buy and sell power from their neighbors. The utility is completely integrated within the community, the need for supplemental power and administration from Con Ed is completely negated.  Clean Power, Infrastructure Grade, Full Spectrum.  From the heart of New York City.  Here lives the future of residential power.

. . .

Forty five years ago, from the green heart of Upstate New York,  the efforts culminating in Brooklyn were conceived.  Manhattan sweltered every summer.  Brown Outs (remember them?) were frequent, power generating capacity couldn't match demand.  The Blenheim-Gilboa Power Station was conceived and built in direct response to the 1965 outage that crippled the Northeast.  As construction of its enormous grid tie power line was approaching completion, the equally destructive 1977 power breakdown again crippled the entire Eastern Half of the country.  The need was critical, the solutions few...  However, Yankee innovation saved the day; as water flowed to generate electricity, history flowed with new knowledge as a renewable, innovative solution conveyed power and know how to an underserved Metropolis.

The Blenheim-Gilboa Hydroelectric Power Station is to be found on Route 30, just north of Prattsville NY, in an area of the Catskills known as the Irish Alps, not to be mistaken with the southerly Borscht Belt, and the more opulent Jewish Alps! A well known geographic marker, Schoharie Creek, runs roughly parallel to Rt 30, and replenishes the huge, five billion gallon upper reservoir.  It's designed as two lakes, upper and lower.  Water flowing from the upper reservoir spins turbines at the lower.  Think of it as a giant battery, electric potential embraced by Evergreens and the rich Dutch History of the region.  It's high order, powerful engineering, capable of self starting, without using electricity, in less that two minutes, and once operating, to jump start the State's entire electric grid in the aftermath of a major shutdown.  Total generating capacity is 1,160 MW, and unlike wind and solar, also plentiful upstate, it's available twenty four by seven.  Originally designed to supplement the power needs of New York City During hot daylight hours, the Power Station is now frequently run at night, when wind, and (obviously) solar energy resources aren't as plentiful.  Controversial during its construction, subsequent time has shown it to be clean, flexible, and prescient!                

. . .

In late May '77, I was out the door at Hamilton, and on a construction job virtually the next day, landing in the splendor of Harry Heid's Dream Hill Hotel, a No-Tell Motel on the outskirts of Catskill NY, the eastern terminus of the power line connecting the generating plant to civilization.   My mother made me bring my own sheets, my girlfriend made me burn all my clothes. It was Paradise! A highly skilled master electrician I was not, but I could hustle, and I could make coffee. So my first responsibility was to show up at the job site bright and early, banging on trailer and camper doors to roust my crew out of bed. This was more complicated than you might imagine, because wives, girlfriends, and hookers were more often than not residents of the trailers.  And the lady's of the evening were ancient, OMG, in their 40's!  

I've worked heavy construction jobs throughout college, and into a portion of my adult life.  Despite the wild start to many days, my work was a wonderful counterpoint to the liberal arts, working on something arduous, sure, but innovative, urgent, and of lasting value.  At Kirkland and Hamilton, we did work of the intellect, expressed through a strong mind.  Here, on the power line, we did work of the intellect, expressed through strong hands.  We knew we were doing good work, proud work.  I was part of a team that tended to a big, two hundred ton crane that we employed to set the "bridge" of the transmission towers, the cross piece, on the top of the bodies. I spent a lot of time running a tractor to drag big timbers from spot to muddy, mucky spot to make a corduroy road for the crane to crawl upon. If I felt the terrain was too rough for a road, I'd call a meeting:  including an engineer, my crew chief, and I.  By Labor Day, three months after squabbling with an English Professor in what should have been my last semester in school, I was making decisions to call in Sikorsky Sky Cranes to set and secure tons of steel.  I was twenty two years old. Thousands of dollars rode on the decisions.  Now that was cool! Regardless of the method, when a bridge was being set, I'd scramble to the tops of the tower, a couple hundred feet in the air with a spud wrench (ask) and a torque wrench (don't ask) to tighten the connecting bolts just enough to allow marginal flexibility in the wind.  Romantic, maybe yes, maybe no, but a wild job that I loved!  I was outed as a college kid because my crew punctuated orders and conversations with "f**ckin" (absent the trailing g) while I attempted the correct pronunciation (and Hamilton affectation) "f**cking", as taught to me by my good college professors. There were 650 people on this job. Every single one of them called me "John Boy" from the Waltons. Imagine the humiliation...   

So there we were at the start of the green revolution, Before Jimmy Carter installed Solar Panels on the White House Roof, before Reagan scornfully removed them and started drilling.  From my vantage point, a couple hundred feet in the air with my torque wrench, history has shown Carter to be right. Maybe hindsight is an easy judgment, but a lot of decisions and discoveries have had to break our way in the last forty plus years, decisions implemented with some spine.  Remember that Reagan's opinion held sway for decades.  We need to double down on our decisions, continue to summon the backbone to push them forward...I've put together a small collection of notes, links, and bibliographic data if anyone wants to follow up in a collaborative effort.  Earth Day, Earth Week was originally conceived to be about improving our knowledge.  Let's not forget that as we move forward into a future nursing a climate that's already seriously damaged.

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