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Paul Smith's Returns to Hydro Roots

Ethan Smith

More than 100 years ago, Paul Smith - the famed hotelier, guide and entrepreneur - flipped the switch on the region's first electric company. Its first generator was a hydropower dam located right on the property that became Paul Smith's College.

That generator is long gone. But hydropower is back at Paul Smith's, which now satisfies all of its electricity needs through NP&L-affiliated local hydropower stations.

Paul Smiths College
Paul Smiths, the College of the Adirondacks

Paul Smith's, known as the College of the Adirondacks, recently signed up for electricity from the Sissonville hydropower station on the Raquette River in Potsdam. The agreement continues our relationship with the college, which has been an NP&L customer since March 2020. At the time, it subscribed to electricity from Azure Mountain Power in St. Regis Falls. But Azure Mountain Power wasn't big enough to provide all of the college's electricity. It wasn't until the 3.1-megawatt Sissonville plant came online that we could help the college reach that goal.

Kate Glen
Sustainability Coordinator Kate Glenn

Kate Glenn (Pictured), Paul Smith's sustainability coordinator, has led the college's charge to go local, and renewable. "Supporting local businesses and preserving existing renewable energy sources in the region, like the historic Sissonville hydro station, will help build a more resilient electric grid and local economy," she says. "Rural economies face unique economic struggles. Renewable energy generation is one of the ways we can continue to develop our region’s economy sustainably.”

How to source the electricity powering her family home and transportation has been an important question for Sunita, and the answer hasn’t alway been easy. “Energy can be a highly politicized issue,” she acknowledges, citing different perspectives on the development of wind energy in the region.

For more information, see the press release on Paul Smith's website, or recent press in the Adirondack Almanac

“My brother was a CSA farmer in the Hudson Valley,” she explains. Upon learning that each Northern Power & Light customer gets a share of the energy a facility produces, a light when off, “I was like, oh my gosh, it’s exactly like a farm CSA!”