The company has secured all required permits and regulatory approvals for the restart of the natural-gas fired power plant. Construction of the natural gas pipeline from a tap in the Empire Pipeline to the plant near Seneca Lake will begin soon, and the target date to be generating power again is Feb. 1, 2017.
The Greenidge Generation Power Plant will never again be powered by coal.
Greenidge employees were joined by local, state, and federal officials at the Greenidge plant Oct. 18 to flip a switch symbolizing the beginning of a new era at the facility.
The company announced Sept. 19 that it has secured all required permits and regulatory approvals for the restart of the natural-gas fired power plant. Irwin told those gathered in the cavernous facility that construction of the natural gas pipeline from a tap in the Empire Pipeline to the plant near Seneca Lake will begin soon, and the target date to be generating power again is Feb. 1, 2017.
"Greenidge's Final Title V Permit is a model permit under the Federal Clean Air Act," said Plant Manager Dale Irwin at the brief ceremony that concluded with the group flipping a switch to power two bright lights.
"The emissions limits we will be held to are lower than any facility of its kind — anywhere. No other plant in the country has a natural gas/biomass boiler with the emissions controls we have here. We will also be installing the best technology available here to fully protect the wildlife of Seneca Lake," he said.
Talking about the local economic impact of the power plant, Irwin pointed out two large pumps flanking the ceremonial power switch, and explained that they are industrial pumps built by Gould Pumps, recently rebuilt by Estabrook, a Penn Yan business. The pumps will be used in the boilers that will power the generator. "We have already spent hundreds of thousands of dollars with local vendors, repair shops and construction trades," he said.
U.S. Rep. Tom Reed said the plant's operations will lead to economic opportunities and long term employment in the area. He said the approval of the permits is a testament to the team at Greenidge Generation. This represents, I think, what we stand for in America. Saying the facility is a leader in the country, Reed said, "We have moved from the coal production to natural gas/biomass right here in our back yard — in Yates County. He said a team approach with state and federal officials helped the process.
Reed and others mentioned the impact the operating power plant will have on the local tax base as well as local economy, and promised continued support as the project moves forward.
"I'm looking forward to decades of energy right here in Yates County," he said.
State Assemblyman Phil Palmesano recalled the "punch in the gut" that the community felt when the plant went dark in 2011. "Thank you for your team's patience and perseverance. Congratulations for a job well done." he said to Irwin.
Yates County Legislative Chairman Timothy Dennis said, "This is truly a great day for Yates County. He recognized the tenacity and foresight of Atlas Holdings, the owners of the power company and Greenidge Generation and the support of Steve Griffin of the Finger Lakes Economic Development and others who lobbied, wrote letters, and passed supportive resolutions.
"It's all about teamwork. We had the right team, and the game went into overtime, but we won," Dennis said.
Yates County Legislator Jim Smith of Torrey said one of his goals when running for county legislature was to see the re-firing of the power plant, and said he felt a tremendous sense of satisfaction to be a part of the effort.
Other local officials who spoke were Farm Bureau Field Agent Skip Jensen, Torrey Supervisor Pat Flynn, Torrey Councilman Burge Morris, and Dresden Mayor Bill Hall.
The power plant was originally built in the 1930s by New York State Electric & Gas. Its first generator went into service in 1938. Additional units were added in 1942, 1950 and 1953 — unit four, which is the generator that will be used to produce power. Units one and two were retired from service in 1985. Unit three, which was retired in December 2009, still stands in the plant alongside unit 4.
AES Energy Eastern, which bought the plant from NYSEG, invested $50 million in 2006 to retrofit and environmentally upgrade the plant as part of the Federal Department of Energy's Clean Coal program.
The plant went dark on March 18, 2011 when it was taken out of service in steps approved by the New York State Public Service Commission, NYSEG and the New York Independent System Operator.
It was originally purchased from AES by a businessman who considered dismantling the structure entirely, but instead sold it to Atlas Holdings in early 2014.
Greenidge Generation's first application for a Title V Permit to re-fire the plant with natural gas and biomass was denied by federal officials in 2015. Environmental Protection Officials said the plant's operations were subject to Prevention of Significant Deterioration and New Source Review requirements.