Scenic Hudson hires architect for Danskammer proposal

By Mark Reynolds
Posted 1/13/21

In a second installment on the proposed Danskammer gas powered plant in the Town of Newburgh, Scenic Hudson’s Environmental Advocacy Director Haley Carlock interviewed experts on the design of …

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Scenic Hudson hires architect for Danskammer proposal


In a second installment on the proposed Danskammer gas powered plant in the Town of Newburgh, Scenic Hudson’s Environmental Advocacy Director Haley Carlock interviewed experts on the design of a battery storage facility at the site and the health implications to the public of the company’s proposed plant.

Carlock said Scenic Hudson turned to Nathaniel Wooton, an industrial design and landscape architect with the firm Olin and an adjunct professor at the University of Pennsylvania’s Stuart Weitzman School of Design, “to evaluate the suitability of the site for beneficial alternative uses...We wanted something that could provide concrete economic benefits to the community and that would be environmentally healthy, safe and sustainable.” She said after reviewing a number of alternatives from the University a battery storage facility made the most sense for the site.

Wooten said the Danskammer site is most suitable for a battery storage facility because of its regional strategic location in the New York State power grid that is halfway between upstate generation sources and major usage areas around New York City.

Wooton also noted that the site already has existing energy transmission lines and switch-yard infrastructure that removes this cost to any future electric development.

Wooten said battery storage will have little impact on the nearby community because of the site’s relative remoteness and that it is shielded by topography and vegetation.

Wooten said flat areas clear of obstruction are ideal locations for the battery modules because they are unlikely to be impacted by major hazards like flooding. He said parts of the site that were flooded during Hurricane Sandy as well as wetland areas were excluded from consideration of battery storage as well as the large coal ash landfill on the northern side of the site, “due to concerns about structural stability and permitting.”

Wooten said about 5 acres of the 150 acre site is considered “ideally suitable” for battery storage, pointing out that this use is also compatible with future development of the waterfront area for other commercial or recreational uses. He said the coal ash landfill, once fully stabilized, could be used for a solar array project.

“It is well suited, it is flat and has a general southern orientation and beautiful views of the Hudson River,” he said.

Carlock spoke with Nick Pevzner, who teaches Landscape Architecture at the University of Pennsylvania and is a noted expert in landscape impacts of renewable energy projects.

Pevzner said his team studied other battery storage sites, such as the Escondido and Gateway Energy storage facilities, both in California, the Anbaric Renewable Energy Center in Somerset, Massachusetts and closer to home, the KCE NY1 facility in Saratoga County and the Lincoln Park Grid Support Center in Ulster, NY.

“We looked at their footprint, their storage capacity, their layout, how they were organized and what constraints the developers faced,” he said, adding that he also studied the New York State Energy, Research and Development Agency’s [NYSERDA] energy storage guidebook and the New York State Uniform Fire Code on their provisions.

Pevzner said a recent project in the borough of Queens in New York City received approval to transform an old natural gas peaker power plant into a 316 mega-watts battery storage facility. He pointed out that the design for the Danskammer site is about 60% the size of the Queens facility, while following the “tired and true” outdoor design setting for fire safety reasons while incorporating all required setbacks and access issues.

Pevzner said battery storage at the Danskammer site can be constructed in phases.

“Energy storage is already modular, the kinds of batteries that come in pre-assembled shipping container sized moduals and can be scaled up as needed unlike a large power plant that has a lot of centralized infrastructure that has to do many things at once,” he said. “It’s pretty easy to break a battery storage project up into phases.”

Pevzner said the battery storage design for Danskammer is a “flexible and attractive” use for the site, “because it helps with moving New York’s grid towards a clean energy future.” He said New York has aggressive de-carbonization timelines in order to meet climate commitments, with the goal of ensuring 3,000 mega-watts of energy storage by 2030.

“We know that we need to de-carbonize as quickly as possible and we’ll need as much battery storage as we can on the grid to unlock the full value of renewable energy,” he said.

Pevzner said battery storage facilities are clean, do not not cause long term pollution and help support a clean energy grid.

“All of these things are positive from my point of view,” he said.

Carlock said a battery storage facility at Danskammer is suitable for up to 190 mega-watts of capacity and is eligible for financial incentives. She said the facility can easily be financed in phases, with each phase supporting up to 25 construction jobs.

Carlock said the taxable capital investment for a battery storage facility of this type is approximately $115 million, far less than the $600 million estimate for the fracked gas project. She said even if Danskammer was able to raise the needed capital for the gas fired plant, “it would not be able to keep this plant operating for very long due to both market and regulatory forces...It is a much surer bet to invest in a long-term facility like battery storage, especially one that could be co-located with other economically beneficial uses.”

Carlock touched upon the health impacts of Danskammer’s proposed gas fired plant and has consulted with Dr. David O. Carpenter, Director of the Institute for Health and the Environment and a Professor of Environmental Health Sciences at SUNY Albany. He received his medical degree from Harvard Medical School.

Carlock said although the proposed plant would operate more efficiently than the 65 year old plant, it would run “nearly all the time.” She said Danskammer’s own data that they submitted in their 2019 application to the NYS Board on Electric Generation Siting and the Environment, shows annual increases of harmful elements released into the atmosphere from the current to the proposed plant: Nitrogen Oxides will increase from 44 tons to 144 tons; course Particulate Matter [PM10] from 3 tons to 82 tons and Volatile Organic Compounds [VOC] from 2 tons to 59 tons.

Carlock said a number of peer review studies show that people who live near fossil fuel power plants have much higher rates of respiratory, cardiovascular and neurological diseases. She pointed out that greenhouse gas emissions are expected to increase if the new plant is built by up to 4,000% from the emissions that the current plant actually emits on an annual basis [from 47,304 tons to 1,954,952 tons].

Carlock said more greenhouse gases will accelerate climate change, “through more extreme weather events, warmer temperatures overall, degrading our air and water quality we so prize in the Hudson Valley, accelerate sea level rise, increase flooding in our communities and impact industries like tourism, forestry and farming.”

Carlock said “right now the ball is in Danskammer’s court to determine whether it has the courage to change its plan for the site or sell it to somebody who has a better plan.”