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Letter: Re-powering Port Jefferson Versus the Alternatives

A case for repowering the power plant in Port Jefferson written by Brian McCaffrey Sr. of White Birch Consulting.

National Grid is the owner/operator of four electric generating units in the Village of Port Jefferson. Two of the units are steam units and were built in the 1960’s and are in need of upgrade. The ideal replacement would be what is called re-powering. The new unit would be state of the art technology and would be 50 percent more efficient and have half the air emission rate of the current units. Thus efficient units would continue to operate and continue to contribute to the property tax base.

The Long Island Power Authority requested bids a year ago from generating companies for additional capacity on Long Island as well as increased inter-ties to bring more electricity from off-island. National Grid declined to bid on any new generation or re-powering of older units. It has long been our position that the LIPA request, as well as the New York State Energy Plan, are deficient in that they do not provide any encouragement or incentive for generating companies to re-power older units using  brownfield sites vs. clearing virgin land (greenfield) as was the case with the Caithness project in Yaphank.

The Long Island Power Authority entered into a contract with British Petroleum to construct 32 MW of solar generation at Brookhaven National Laboratory. This project cost over $165 million and involved the destruction of 200 acres of virgin woodlands. Since solar voltaics only works during daylight (and is heavily dependent on subsidies and tax credits) this project produces energy at a significant premium to conventional generation. LIPA is paying BP $0.34/kwhr for the energy delivered. LIPA is currently taking bids for additional solar power and will be paying $0.22/kwhr. This is quite the “subsidy” since LIPA purchases bulk power from many conventional sources at an average cost of around $0.045/kwhr.

Thus, these “renewables” are costing the Long Island ratepayers anywhere from 5 to 8 times the cost to purchase the electricity from conventional power plants. Similarly, wind power, which is being discussed for large arrays off the Atlantic coast, would only produce when the wind is blowing and involve costly construction and long distance under-water transmission cables to the mainland. Adding energy storage (batteries) to solar and wind power would increase the generation costs significantly. Both of these options use large spaces for small generation output. Solar and wind are simply not efficient or cost effective options for bulk electrical generation.

Thus, re-powering of an existing industrial site such as Northport, Port Jefferson or EF Barrett sites is the correct economic and environmental solution for needed new generation. LIPA also has a contracted for inter-ties to other states to bring off-island electricity to Long Island. Their newest inter-tie, the Neptune Project has been out of service the entire summer and its return is uncertain. Thus 600 MW of off-island energy is not available- bolstering the argument for on-island generation.

The Village filed comments on the draft New York State Energy Plan in February, 2012. A new Plan is due to be released in 2013. We continue to monitor and be involved in this important process. Our comments were intended to bolster the State Plan with regard to re-powering older units. Advantages are:

  1. Preserve greenfields
  2. Reduce air emissions using newer technology
  3. Keep electric generation closer to the end user vs long distance off-island transmission lines.
  4. Lower heat rate/higher efficiency- saves fuel

We also provided advantages for Port Jefferson:

  1. Willing host community
  2. Reduce plant air emission rates
  3. Existing gas supplies and transmission capacity are adequate
  4. Deep water port for delivery of equipment
  5. Re-use of existing industrial site, thus preserving greenfields
  6. Lower transmission loses vs. off-island inter-ties

The Village continues to monitor the evolution of the State Energy Plan since we believe re-powering needs to be embraced as an important element of the New York State Energy Policy.

More recently, the village filed a complaint with the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission ( FERC) requesting an investigation of the market Power of National Grid to use their position as the largest generating company on Long Island to the detriment of Long Island ratepayers. We believe that if there were truly a competitive  market in place then we would see new generating plants and lower electric rates. We also believe that without the stranglehold of National Grid that the potential would be there for Port Jefferson to be re-powered.

Nassau Taxpayer August 28, 2012 at 01:47 PM
Not limited to re-powering of the Port Jefferson plants, as part of the Cuomo and FERC reviews, LIPA must be restructured and Grid must go.
greencap August 29, 2012 at 06:27 AM
You forgot one advantage (and the reason for your campaign against LIPA) 5. Keep 27 million dollars annually in property tax coming in for property that is worth probably that much. This will keep our property taxes at half those of the rest of LI and allow our residents to enjoy outsized benefits. Please, we all know LIPA and national grid are garbage, but let your agenda be known for this!

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