Planning for Power Outages

Set along the Mohawk River in New York’s Mohawk Valley, the City and Town of Amsterdam have repeatedly been impacted by severe flooding following major storms in recent years. The communities experienced lengthy power failures in the wake of Hurricane Irene in 2011 and Superstorm Sandy in 2012 in particular, with the outages closing critical government operations for several days after each storm.

Building More Resilient Communities

As part of its mission to help New York communities become more resilient to storm damage and the growing impacts of climate change, the Governor’s Office of Storm Recovery (GOSR) partnered with the City and Town of Amsterdam and local volunteers to develop a New York Rising Community Reconstruction Plan for the two municipalities. The plan focused on measures to enable local government operations to continue without interruption during future emergencies. Implemented through a contract administered by the Dormitory Authority of the State of New York (DASNY), the project called for emergency backup power for selected municipal buildings and school emergency shelters in both the city and the town.

GOSR provided $1.5 million for the project, which was completed late last year. Standby generators with capacities ranging from 35kW to 250kW were installed at five locations:

  • The Town of Amsterdam’s town hall
  • The City of Amsterdam’s city hall
  • The City of Amsterdam’s Department of Public Works building
  • Amsterdam High School
  • William H. Barkley Elementary School

Site-Specific Requirements

As prime consultant and lead engineer, we provided project management, engineering design, and construction support services for the project, which included identifying flood-protected areas for the generators and developing a protocol for refueling, maintenance, and servicing. During emergencies, the generators start automatically and provide power to the facilities through automatic transfer switches. The durable, industrial-type generators are estimated to provide reliable service for up to 20 years.

Each generator was selected based on site visits, existing electrical service, demand load calculations, and field observations of the site conditions. Onsite diesel fuel storage tanks with a capacity of 72 hours were also provided, and, where a reliable utility gas supply is available, the generators are connected to natural gas. Each generator is housed on a concrete pad in sound-attenuated, weatherproof, outdoor enclosures to protect from the weather elements, with bollards to secure the equipment from vehicular traffic.

A 130kW Generac Industrial Standby Diesel Generator was installed at the Amsterdam City Hall.

A 130kW Generac Industrial Standby Diesel Generator was installed at the Amsterdam City Hall.

Supporting Critical Operations

With the completion of this project, critical government operations for these communities will now be able to continue uninterrupted. The generators at the high school and elementary school enable these buildings to now be used as emergency shelters during storms and other emergencies, serving those who may be displaced from their homes. According to DASNY President and CEO Gerrard P. Bushell, “DASNY is proud to work with the Governor’s Office of Storm Recovery in strengthening communities across the state against increasingly powerful storms. The installation of these generators in Amsterdam is an important step in answering Governor Cuomo’s call for a more resilient and sustainable New York.”

The project was recognized with a Silver Award in the American Council of Engineering Companies of New York (ACEC-NY) Engineering Excellent Awards. According to Natalie Wright, GOSR executive director of Community Reconstruction, Infrastructure & Small Business, “The combined efforts of GOSR’s citizen, government, and industry partners are making New York’s communities safer, more resilient and stronger. The New York Rising Community Reconstruction program, as envisioned and launched by Governor Cuomo, has harnessed local participation to bring essential projects such as this, in the City of Amsterdam, to fruition. On behalf of GOSR, I congratulate Dewberry for winning this prestigious award and thank them for the vital role they played in our effort to provide emergency power to serve the people of Amsterdam in the event of future power outages, no matter what the cause.”