Thomas “Tom” Sullivan, P.E., has demonstrated commitment to and passion for the hydropower industry for more than 40 years. His quick-learning, dedication, and kindness are just a few of the many traits that have guided him through his influential career.
Tom’s hard work was awarded when he was recognized as the recipient of the Dr. Kenneth Henwood Award, the hydropower industry’s most prestigious honor, at the National Hydropower Association’s inaugural Clean Currents conference + tradeshow the week of October 18, 2021.
“Tom’s passion for the hydropower industry and for finding solutions that work for both people and the environment are evident to anyone who has met him whether it be government officials, attendees of seminars he’s taught, NGO personnel, clients, colleagues, or his employees at Gomez and Sullivan,” said Tim Sullivan, Vice President & Director, Business Development at Gomez and Sullivan Engineers.
In 1982, Tom began working in the hydropower industry, taking an engineering position with StetsonDale, eventually Stetson-Harza, in Utica, New York. Tom’s considerable skills were honed in the early portion of his career through his consulting work on hydropower redevelopment projects at existing dams in the New York and New England areas.
Early contributions to the industry included conducting hydropower feasibility assessments, energy/economic analyses, and preparing preliminary permit applications for those projects showing economic viability. In addition, he was directly involved in conducting environmental studies associated with hydropower licensing such as instream flow studies, impoundment fluctuation studies, hydropower peaking studies, and water quality investigations … to name a few.
Although considered a junior engineer, Tom demonstrated strong communication skills with his co-workers and, more importantly, with clients, federal and state agencies, and non-government organizations (NGOs) in the hydropower industry. In 1988, management recognized Tom’s abilities as a leader and communicator entrusting him at the ripe age of 29 to open a satellite office for Stetson-Harza in Concord, New Hampshire.
In February 1993, Tom and Jerry Gomez made the leap to open Gomez and Sullivan Engineers, D.P.C. (Gomez and Sullivan), where Tom is currently the Principal/Sr. Water Resources Engineer. Fortunate to have established solid relationships with clients based on his past performance, he was able to secure follow-up work with many “Class of 1993” projects.
In the mid-1990s, Tom evolved from being a licensing Project Manager to a leader in the hydropower industry by bringing parties to settlement agreements. Considered extremely rare during this timeframe, Tom was directly involved in facilitating and/or mediating some of the first comprehensive settlement agreements in New England and New York. Tom was instrumental with the Deerfield River Hydroelectric Project, which was one of the first Federal Energy Regulatory Commission (FERC) licensing resulting in a comprehensive Settlement Agreement involving numerous state and federal agencies, as well as various NGOs.
Leadership in Licensing
Tom has dedicated his 40-plus-year career to the hydropower industry in a variety of areas including hydropower rehabilitation, upgrades, development, regulatory affairs and licensing, for which he is perhaps best known.
Tom was at the forefront in implementing new technologies, such as instream flow studies to determine flow needs to protect aquatic resources at hydropower projects.
Over the course of his career, Tom has been directly involved in the licensing of some of the largest and most complex hydropower projects in the Northeast and Mid-Atlantic including the:
- 900-MW St. Lawrence-FDR Hydroelectric Project;
- 157-MW (combined) Hudson-Sacandaga Hydroelectric Projects;
- 2,400-MW Robert Moses Niagara Hydroelectric Project;
- 800-MW Muddy Run Pumped Storage Project;
- 574-MW Conowingo Hydroelectric Project;
- 1,168-MW Northfield Mountain Pumped Storage Project; and
- 1,160-MW Blenheim-Gilboa Pumped Storage Project.
The impact of Tom’s many contributions to hydropower are felt industry wide. Through his work with the “Class of 1993” licensings through today, Tom has been at the leading edge of industry innovation specifically in regard to regulatory affairs, settlements, and hydropower development.
“As a visionary and leader in hydropower, we are thrilled to honor Tom with the Henwood Award,” said Malcolm Woolf, President and CEO of the National Hydropower Association. “Being on the forefront of modern licensing precedents, Tom has made lasting contributions to the hydropower industry. Tom brought together diverse public and private entities to balance power and non-power interests, ensuring that projects are managed over their respective license terms to improve resource protection, while recognizing the strategic value that hydropower plays in the United States energy mix. On behalf of the hydropower industry, we would like to congratulate Tom for being a true pioneer.”
When asked about a notable settlement agreement during his career, one specifically came to mind. Tom explained that the Upper Hudson Settlement Agreement in New York stuck out to him as a proud accomplishment, “There were a lot of diverse interests, about 5 or 6 projects with a lot of issues and they had been having a lot of trouble basically talking to each other. I felt that we had accomplished a lot when we got them to a settlement agreement that they all could live with.”
Tom’s ability to work with diverse groups and interests has resulted in a push to a clean energy grid by being on the forefront of the licensing of significant hydropower projects while keeping in mind the integrity of the waterways.
About the Dr. Kenneth Henwood Award
The Dr. Kenneth Henwood Award is presented by NHA to an individual within the hydro industry who exhibits:
- Dedication to hydropower as an energy technology;
- Persistence in the face of institutional obstacles;
- Appreciation and understanding of the relationships among project engineering, environment and economics;
- A strong commitment for fair dealing and plain speaking; and
- Uncommon energy, enthusiasm, and excitement as a leading force in the industry.