Greenidge Generation has applied a second time for a New York State permit to re-start electric generating operations using natural gas at its power plant near Dresden.
Company officials are hesitant to discuss a specific timeline. They say there is much work to be done before the plant is operating, and there are state and federal regulatory standards to meet before the power will flow from the Torrey plant.
Plant Manager Dale Irwin explained last week that the company’s permit application meets the most strict standards for air pollution emissions in the nation.
“Since we arrived in 2014, we have committed to addressing all state and federal requirements to make the restart of Greenidge happen as soon as possible,” says Irwin, adding, “We believe this revised draft Title V Air Permit is an important step toward that goal. We look forward to the public comment period and completion of the regulatory review process as we have worked to ensure that this draft permit achieves the important environmental standards for permitting a facility of this type. This project as currently proposed enjoys broad local support because it will not only do right by our environment in every meaningful way, but, at the same time, will create new jobs, restore much-needed tax revenues, stimulate the regional economy and produce critically-needed electricity for the region.”
The permit application states the plant will not operate on coal or fuel-oil. Instead, the facility will be operated primarily on natural gas, with co-firing of up to 19 percent biomass. Both were previously authorized in the prior Title V permit the facility operated under until it was shuttered by AES in 2011.
Dresden Mayor William Hall says the village board will be passing a resolution in support of the reopening at its July 6 meeting.
“We’re real excited about where they are at,” he says. Hall has toured the plant himself, and says he’s impressed with the facility.
Hall hopes the Dresden community will benefit from future employees moving to the village. “It’s the only way for us to stem the tide of families leaving,” he says, noting the added jobs in the local economy might be enough to boost other local endeavors. “We’re hoping Torrey station could reopen. It’s hard to run six miles for a jug of milk,” he says.
Steve Griffin, chief executive officer of the Finger Lakes Economic Development Center, also welcomes the news, saying, “It means we finally get a significant economic boost. We finally get some good paying jobs back and our taxing structures will get some tax revenue.”
FLEDC is scheduling public hearings on a plan for payments in lieu of taxes the local agency will organize for Greenidge.
“I give the credit to Atlas Holding, Dale (Irwin) and his local team and the DEC for getting us to this point,” Griffin adds.
Assemblyman Phil Palmesano is preparing a letter of support for the project, he says, explaining, “I am in full support of the project. It will bring much needed power, jobs and tax revenue to the town, county, and school district. I hope it will be approved.”
Palmesano thanks the plant owners for their commitment and dedication to the community, and for their due diligence in working with the DEC and EPA to address their questions.
U.S. Rep. Tom Reed commented Tuesday morning, “The potential repowering of Greenidge is great news for our region. We are actively engaged in making this a reality, and are hopeful that the repowering will move forward in the near future. By encouraging the repowering of Greenidge, we are supporting an ever growing investment into our region. Roughly $40 million has been spent to repower the plant, ensuring our working families and small businesses have access to the reliable and affordable energy they need, along with quality, family-sustaining jobs as a result of new construction that accompanies the changes at the site. The plant will also help keep taxes lower for area residents. These are all critically important issues to the people of our region that we care deeply about. This is a win for the Finger Lakes and our region and we are glad to see the project move forward.”
Irwin says Greenidge officials have worked with the New York State Department of Environmental Conservation to develop a permit application that meets all the requirements of a new power generating facility.
The company is applying for a Facility Permit and Title IV (Acid Rain) Facility Permit. A Title V operating permit is issued by the state agency to comply with the federal Clean Air Act. While the state agency has the prime responsibility for reviewing applications and issuing permits, the EPA regional office has oversight responsibility.
A previous permit application was rejected in December by the EPA, which has oversight of the state’s permit process. The EPA had objected, saying its policy is to treat the reactivation of a shut-down facility as a new source of power. Although the reactivation of the power plant has had support of local government and business representatives, many of the people who attended a public hearing in Dresden last year demanded the application be treated as a new source of energy. However, most of those who were opposed were not from Yates County, and many had ties to groups openly opposing other natural gas development.
The power plant, previously owned by AES, and NYSEG before that, had generated power by burning coal since it was built in the 1930s.
The Greenidge power plant, which previously generated power with the use of coal, was shuttered by AES in 2011. The Greenidge coal-fired power plant was constructed in the 1930’s with its first generator (Unit 1) going into service in 1938. Additional units were added in 1942 (Unit 2), 1950 (Unit 3), and 1953 (Unit 4). Units 1 and 2 were retired from service in 1985. Unit 3 was retired in December 2009. In 2006 significant improvements to emission control equipment were installed on Unit 4, but the plant has not operated since March, 2011.
The permit application will be the subject of a 30 day public comment period that begins today, July 6, says Irwin.
Once Department of Environmental Conservation officials review the comments, they will determine if there is a need for a formal public hearing. DEC officials could also extend the public comment period beyond 30 days. Once the DEC review is complete, it is passed on to the EPA, whose officials then have 45 days to review before sending it back to the state. “Hopefully with positive comments,” says Irwin. The EPA can bar the issue of the Title V permit if those officials determine the application does not meet Clean Air Act requirements.
The earliest the company will receive the operating permit will be 75 days from July 6, which means the company officials are realistically looking at months before all permits are received and construction is complete. Irwin says they are prepared for the wait and understand the need for close review. “They (DEC officials) have an obligation to respond to every comment that comes in,” he says.
So far, the company has invested over $11.6 million in the project.
To deliver the natural gas to fire the boiler which will create the steam to generate the power, the company will build a pipeline connecting the plant to the Empire pipeline that crosses Yates County. The Empire Pipeline carries natural gas from Western New York to the Southern Tier.
Irwin says while a state Public Service Commission permit is still needed for the pipeline construction, the company has secured right of way agreements with all of the property owners along the planned route. The permit to operate the plant is required before the company can apply for the pipeline permit, explains Irwin.
Once all the regulatory issues are met, Irwin estimates construction of the pipeline will take about 100 days. A project manager, Mark Swinnerton of Watkins Glen, has been hired by Greenidge to oversee the bidding and construction process. “He’s local and highly qualified to do the work,” says Irwin.
While the pipeline project is underway, other work inside the plant will be completed to prepare for the natural gas firing, says Irwin.
Solar could be the future
Irwin says Greenidge is serious about solar power and battery storage on the 300-acre property. He says the company fully supports the state’s Reforming the Energy Vision (REV) strategy, which is aimed at increased use of renewable energy resources, and giving customers opportunities for energy savings, among other objectives.
Application documents and supporting materials are available for public review at www.dec.ny.gov/dardata/boss/afs/draft_atv.html.