Greenidge plant goes dark in Torrey

Staff Writer
The Chronicle Express

The AES Greenidge power plant located near Dresden went dark on March 18 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 (NYISO).

On Monday, Plant Manager Doug Roll said workers are taking steps to prepare the equipment inside the plant to sit idle for as long as two years. Draining fluids, and protecting machinery from corrosion, the intent is to keep the plant in shape to generate power in the future, should the electricity market change.

A document submitted by AES in September notified the PSC, “In light of the market conditions and other circumstances as they are known as of this time, it (AES) intends to put its Greenidge Unit 4 facility in protective lay-up on Friday, March 18.”

Roll says the plant is not competitive because of the high cost of coal, and the low cost of natural gas. In addition, the demand for electricity is low.

“The unfortunate thing is, it’s one of the cleanest plants in the Northeast,” said Roll.

AES says it has invested more than $40 million in environmental retrofits to limit emissions from the plant and $9 million was invested to allow the use of biomass (wood).

The plant had most recently employed about 40 employees.

Roll says the plant has been operating at a loss, and efforts will continue to find ways to reduce the fixed costs associated with operating the plant.

The company will keep all air and water discharge permits up to date, and the ash disposal pile will continue to operate, accepting ash from other AES facilities as approved by the New York State Department of Environmental Conservation.

In 2002, an extensive study of the feasibility of operating a bioethanol facility on the location was completed by a Virginia consulting firm.

According to that report, the AES Greenidge coal-fired power plant was originally 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.

Roll says co-locating a bioethanol facility on the AES property would require a “tremendous amount of capital.”

He said such an operation would be economically feasible according to the report, but it is not something that AES would do.