In January 2013, a conversation between Mike Hall, then director of financial planning and budgeting at Skidmore, and alumnus Omay Elphick ‘93 of Gravity Renewables led to an opportunity at an historical small-hydro facility. The facility, originally built in the early 1800s, sat on an existing fault line and waterfall in Stockport, N.Y. Years of inadequate funding, however, threatened the future of the historic site. In 2015, Skidmore College and Gravity Renewables finalized an agreement that would revitalize the dam and expand the College's renewable energy portfolio. We anticipate that this certified low-impact dam at Chittenden Falls will eventually generate about 18% of the College's electricity needs. The project was made possible through favorable new remote net metering legislation, and upon its completion, became the first remote net metered small-hydro project in the United States. The facility, about one hour south of campus, includes a small classroom for the Skidmore community to use during class trips and tours.
This project truly exemplifies sustainability in that it simultaneously improves environmental, social, and economic well-being. This small-hydro facility takes advantage of a natural abutment, which means that there is very little risk to the surrounding natural and built environment, and it is a low-impact source of power. In addition, this facility provides important economic benefits to the Stockport community by increasing the town’s tax base and other local spending. This project also preserves a piece of our cultural heritage. There is an inter-generational pride associated with historic infrastructure like this, and there are many positive social benefits to keeping these facilities alive.