Green Light for Greenidge Power Plant

John Christensen
The Greenidge Power Plant has not been generating power since March 2011.

Greenidge Generation announced Monday, Sept. 19 that it has secured all required permits and regulatory approvals for the restart of the Greenidge power plant. According to a press release from the company, after a comprehensive review by federal and state environmental agencies over several years, with extended opportunity for public comment, the New York State Department of Environmental Conservation (DEC) has issued Greenidge’s Final Title V Air Permit, saying, “Both the DEC and the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) concluded that the permit as written meets all applicable Clean Air Act standards and requirements.”

The New York Public Service Commission has also approved Greenidge’s application to construct the four-mile natural gas pipeline to fuel the formerly coal-fired plant. “This pipeline is necessary to ensure that a key Title V Air Permit condition included at the request of Greenidge – that the facility never again be operated on coal – be achieved,” states the press release.

The pipeline will extend to the plant from a tap in the Empire Pipeline which passes through Yates County.

According to Greenidge General Manager Dale Irwin, “We expect to begin construction (of the pipeline) in 30 to 45 days and to re-fire the plant in the first quarter of 2017.”

A major taxpayer in Yates County, the Town of Torrey, and the Penn Yan Central School District from its beginning in 1936 until it was mothballed in March 2011, the project has received widespread support from federal, state and local elected officials, business leaders, and citizens.

“After years of work, widespread support from our community, and strong partnerships with government at all levels, all approvals needed for the restart of Greenidge have now been secured and restoration of operations at Greenidge will soon become reality,” says Irwin.

Village of Dresden Mayor Bill Hall says, “We’re thrilled to death with the news! And we’re looking forward to the coming days of hiring people and the plant being operational again.” He added, “The village is grateful to Atlas for persevering in this. They gave more effort than most companies would have given.”

Town of Torrey Supervisor Pat Flynn says, “This is good for everybody – taxpayers and consumers – and will bring some good jobs in. I just hope it goes through.” Deputy Supervisor Colby Petersen says, “We’re definitely excited for the progress that has been made and for the pipeline going forward this fall.”

Yates County Legislature Chairman Dr. Timothy Dennis responded, “This is certainly good news for Yates County. The restart of Greenidge will help secure our electrical energy needs. It will provide good, skilled jobs in our county, and help with our tax base. Congratulations to Atlas Holdings for their foresight and willingness to invest in Yates County.”

“Repowering the Greenidge power plant is great news for our entire region,” says U.S. Rep. Tom Reed of Corning, adding, “It helps working families and small businesses get access to reliable and affordable energy, provides quality, family-sustaining jobs close to home, and will help keep local taxes in check. These are critically important issues to the people of our region that we care deeply about. Further, this success is a testament to the achievement that can come from community unity. Its only right to applaud the efforts of so many who worked tirelessly to complete this project, including State Sen. Tom O’Mara, Assemblyman Phil Palmesano, Steve Griffin, CEO of the Finger Lakes Economic Development Center, Dr. Tim Dennis, Chairman of the Yates County Legislature, Village of Dresden Mayor Bill Hall, Town of Torrey Town Supervisory Patrick Flynn, Plant Manager Dale Irwin, and Scott Osborn, along with other local business and union leaders. We are truly excited to see this project get underway.”

Last December, the EPA ruled that resuming operations at Greenidge was subject to Prevention of Significant Deterioration (PSD) and New Source Review (NSR) requirements. Greenidge fully complied with that determination, and worked through 2016 to revise its permit application. Both the DEC and EPA have found the permit now includes all PSD/NSR requirements.

These PSD/NSR requirements include technologies and operation controls with emission limits that meet “Best Available Control Technology” for certain pollutants, and the “Lowest Achievable Emission Rate” for nitrogen oxide (NOx) emissions.

According to Greenidge, the emission rates in the final permit are lower than for any other similar boiler converted to natural gas (and capable of co-firing biomass) anywhere in the country. “No other power plant in the U.S. has a natural gas boiler capable of co-firing biomass that is equipped with Greenidge’s entire suite of NOx control technologies.” The permit for the closest comparable facility has emission rates and limits that are twice as high as those permitted at Greenidge.

“This project, from the immediate and permanent elimination of coal-fired operation to the full use of our extensive emissions-control technologies to the extremely stringent emissions limits, will surely do right by our environment. At the same time, it will restore much-needed tax revenues, create jobs, stimulate the regional economy and produce critically-needed electricity for the region,” says Irwin. “We’re excited to get to work.”

Yates County’s industrial/economic development agency, The Finger Lakes Economic Development Center (FLEDC), was instrumental in establishing tax abatements and smoothing the financial path for Greenidge to move forward.

FLEDC CEO Steve Griffin says, “It looks like work is finally going to begin. It’s everything we hoped it would be – putting people back to work and in the most environmentally friendly manner possible, and we look forward to Greenidge starting to generate much needed tax revenue for local municipalities.”

PILOT Agreement

At its August meeting, the FLEDC Board of Directors unanimously approved the property tax portion of the Payment in Lieu of Taxes (PILOT) agreement for the Greenidge plant and the gas pipeline. The sales tax abatement portion of the PILOT was approved in July to allow the purchase of materials to begin the project as soon as possible.

Greenidge will make PILOT payments to Yates County, the Town of Torrey and Penn Yan Central School District totalling nearly $3.1 million over 15 years. Also, the company will make payments equal to 2.5 percent of net generation revenue (generation revenue minus delivered fuel cost to burner tip) over $4 million per year from existing generation units. Additional payments of 1 percent of net generation revenue will come from any additional generation capacity constructed at the plant in the future.

Total Construction / Capital Investment: $25 million/$16 million in hard costs

• Pipeline Construction: $5.7 million

• Power Plant: $5 million

• Meter Station: $3.6 million

• Interconnect: $2 million

The total project incentives package equals over $4.4 million and includes:

•Estimated Sales Tax Exemption is $355,000; $35,000 for the plant renovations and $320,000 for the pipeline project.

• Estimated Mortgage Tax Exemption: $160,000

• Estimated PILOT Savings over 15 years: $1.9 million

• New York State Incentives (Empire State Development Grant): $2 million

Griffin has calculated total project benefits to the community at nearly $38 million. Employment estimates for construction jobs are 60 to 80, with permanent jobs numbering 11 full-time employees with an average annual salary at $60,000, a $660,000 annual payroll, and $9.9 million in salaries over the 15-year PILOT term.