NY program aims to spur electrification of tour boats, charters on canal system

Lock 30 Erie Canal

(ALBANY, N.Y.) — Gov. Kathy Hochul on Wednesday announced the launch of the Green Boats program to advance the electrification of tour and charter boats operating on the New York State Canal System.

Through the Reimagine the Canals initiative, the New York Power Authority and New York State Canal Corp. are creating an incentive program to support the conversion of fossil-fuel-powered vessels of qualifying tour, rental and charter boat operators on the canal system to electric propulsion.

To attract interest in such a program, the New York Power Authority recently released a request for expressions of interest (RFEI) and successfully implemented a pilot project with Erie Canal Adventures in Macedon, Wayne County, by converting one of the company’s 42-foot charter boats from diesel to electric power.

Lock 30 Erie Canal
A chartered boat enters Lock No. 30 on its way down the Erie Canal. Wikimedia photo

“New York is leading the nation in the fight against climate change, and this innovative new program goes hand-in-hand with our statewide efforts to lower emissions and encourage the adoption of electric vehicle technology,” Hochul said. “Green Boats will show that electrification is an achievable and realistic goal while simultaneously improving the experience for the operators and thousands of tourists that board these vessels each year on the canal system. This program will reduce pollution in New York’s air and water and keep an important industry afloat.”

The upfront cost of converting watercraft to electric motors and batteries remains the single largest obstacle to widespread adoption of clean energy technologies along the canal system. The Green Boats program offers targeted investment and incentives to offset those initial capital costs, accelerating electrification efforts and encouraging decision-making that simultaneously benefits business and environmental interests. Funding amounts will vary depending on the scope of work and the number of vessels per applicant.

The Green Boats program will improve the experience along the canal system by eliminating the noise, pollution and odor caused by vessels’ fossil fuel combustion and align with New York state’s commitment to reduce statewide greenhouse gas emissions to 40 percent of 1990 levels by 2030 and 85 percent by 2050.

Under the pilot with Erie Canal Adventures, the existing diesel engine of the 42-foot tour boat was replaced with an electric motor supplied by Elco Motor Yachts, an Athens, N.Y.-based manufacturer. The defining features of the tour boat were preserved during the diesel to electric conversion process. Given the pilot’s success, Erie Canal Adventures is now considering converting its entire fossil-fuel-powered fleet to all electric power.

– Office of Gov. Kathy Hochul

By Professional Mariner Staff