Representatives of Danskammer Energy, owners of the power plant located off River Road in the town of Newburgh, appeared at the January 28 town workshop meeting to give a presentation on the new proposed facility and answer questions.
William Reid, CEO of Danskammer Energy, explained details about the proposed upgrades for the site. The current facility was built in the 1950’s for coal burning, and was converted to natural gas in 2014. In the proposed repowering project, Danskammer would build a new, more efficient power facility next to the old one capable of a 536 Mega Watt baseload. The old facility would be decommissioned once the new one became operational. The new facility would no longer use the Hudson River for cooling, instead installing large fans for air cooling. The plant has the potential for housing solar panels and batteries as renewable energy sources on site. Additionally, the facility would use cutting-edge technology that would reduce most current emission levels by as much as 85%, and carbon emissions by 40-50%.
“The new plant will be much more environmentally friendly. Even though it will be running more per hour basis, it will reduce emissions by very large numbers,” stated Reid.
This news, however, raised some questions with local residents. “With this incredibly increased capacity, by what percent will these emissions increase overall?” wondered Tamsin Hollo, member of Newburgh Clean Water Project, afterward. “If each unit is reduced in terms of emissions that’s great, but overall the emissions are still going to be increased.”
The energy plant would continue to burn natural gas, using existing infrastructure such as electric and gas pipelines. While Danskammer currently runs at a limited capacity as a peak-use plant, in anticipation of the Indian Plant closing in 2021 Danskammer would increase usage by four or five times more to fill that void. The upgraded plant would have the capability to run 100% of the time, powering over 500,000 homes and businesses, and would be operational for the next 20-30 years. It’s fast-start turbine would also be able to start in “minutes,” according to Reid.
In 2012, during Hurricane Sandy’s storm surge, the current facility was flooded when “literally someone left the back door open,” said Reid. The new facility would be located further uphill away from the river, out of the 500-year flood plain, to prevent any future incidents of flooding.
Reid also detailed the potential economic benefits of the new plant. According to Danskammer Energy, the company would spend over $400 million on the project, and employ hundreds of workers for two to three years. However, the current 41 full-time employees would be reduced to 35. Danskammer also estimated paying $50 million in property and school taxes over the next 20 years.
“We already make a sizable commitment to the local community, and we will be making that sustainable,” said Reid.
As part of New York State’s Article 10 process, Danskammer Energy has been actively engaging with the public. Following Danskammer’s presentation, the town board took time to ask questions submitted by local residents to the town in advance. Multiple residents raised the question of liability in the case of an accident or negative environmental impact. Reid repeatedly assured the public that the energy company would abide by the Clean Air Act and other federal guidelines, and be responsible for any environmental pollution or impact.
“We are responsible,” stated Reid.
But Hollo felt that didn’t answer the question. “Will they provide a bond? Will they put some money down?...will they guarantee lack of health effects by providing a bond to the community?”
Resident Sandra Kissam felt similarly. “What do you consider to be the limits of that responsibility? How will you fulfill that responsibility? …Regulations were referred to, but regulations are not necessarily the best we can get,” Kissam said.
According to Danskammer’s timeline, the energy company will file their Preliminary Scoping Statement (PSS) in February, and start making Siting Board appointments in early 2019. These appointments include five state officials and two members from the local community, and the Siting Board is the ultimate authority in approving or denying the repowering project. By mid-2019 Danskammer will file their Article 10 Application, and start holding public hearings in late 2019. The company hopes to have a decision made on the upgrades to the site by 2020. If the project moves forward, the new facility could be commercially operational by 2023.
In the coming months Danskammer Energy has 41 exhibit studies planned that will evaluate everything from environmental impact, noise, air emissions, traffic analysis, and wetland delineation.
Questions can be brought to the Danskammer Energy office at 181 South Plank Rd. Hours will be posted on the company website danskammerenergy.com.