New york state steers cayuga power plant toward natural gas-fired future news gas constant mmhg


After receiving four different options from NYSEG to convert the power plant on the east shore of Cayuga Lake—now operated by Upstate New York Power Producers—to burning natural gas instead of coal, New York’s Public Service electricity transmission Commission (PSC) has made NYSEG send the plant’s owners back to the drawing board to come up with another submission. The proposals were prepared for NYSEG by Cayuga Operating Company LLC in response to a directive from the PSC to convert the coal-fired plant to natural gas-burning for what the state commission deemed a reasonable cost.

The PSC is asking NYSEG and the Cayuga Operating Company (COP) for a revised proposal “that meets the reliability, economic development, and environmental benefits identified in the January [2013] order.” At a Sept. 19 hearing the PSC said that the agency’s review of the earlier proposals and NYSEG’s report “indicated that a revised re-powering solution could be consistent with the best interests of the public and ratepayers.” The commission set a 30-day deadline on the order, issued Sept. 24.

“Until NYSEG can complete its transmission reinforcements in 2017, the grid will need gas leak east los angeles support service for four years,” said PSC officials at the Sept. 19 hearing. The PSC seemed to feel that so far, the proposals are too expensive. Upgrades to the plant will be paid for “out-of-market” by surcharges to ratepayers. “The rates have to be just and reasonable … The Cayuga proposals all have one common feature, which is to shift the risk to NYSEG ratepayers. We have suggested some guidelines to NYSEG and [COP] to minimize the impacts on the ratepayers, and that they should also consider other emissions-reducing alternatives electricity electricity music notes.”

Two initiatives, the NYS Energy Highway Blueprint, and the Regional Greenhouse Gas Initiative (RGGI), are driving PSC policy on electric grid changes. In 2003 ten northeastern states formed the RGGI ( and began to plan a “cap and trade” system that would limit carbon dioxide emissions from power plants. Trading began in 2008. According the U.S. Energy Information Administration, 228.6 pounds of CO 2 are emitted for every million BTUs of energy produced by burning anthracite coal. In contrast, the burning of natural gas produces only 117 pounds.

The Energy Highway Blueprint “will fulfill the objectives of modernizing New York’s statewide energy system through a wide-ranging, public-private partnership that will ensure a reliable, affordable and clean power supply to drive economic growth and meet the needs of our citizens far into the future,” according to New York State (

The RGGI is a “market-based regulatory program … to reduce greenhouse gas emissions. RGGI is a cooperative effort among the states of Connecticut, Delaware, Maine, Maryland, Massachusetts, New Hampshire, New year 6 electricity York, Rhode Island, and Vermont to cap and reduce CO2 emissions from the power sector.” ( New Jersey was originally part of the consortium, but Governor Chris Christie suspended his state’s participation in 2011. The biggest coal producing state in the Northeast, Pennsylvania, has never been part of the RGGI, but is an “observer state.”

The Lansing coal-burning plant fell on hard times after the inception of RGGI’s carbon trading. In December 2011 AES Eastern Energy, then the electricity dance moms episode parent company of the Lansing power plant, declared bankruptcy. (AES is a global energy company; only this small regional division is bankrupt.) Used to running at 80 percent capacity, the plant was at 25 percent capacity for much of 2012. Last December, the newly formed COP requested permission from the PSC to mothball the plant. Tompkins County Legislator Carol Chock, who has been following the issue closely, emphasizes that “mothball” did not mean, “shut it down.”

“The mothball notice triggers a reliability study,” said Goodenough. “That study’s finding was that the plant was needed for local reliability.” The PSC found a need for 310 megawatts (MW) in the region. Therefore, the plant’s shareholders took over and gave COP a one-year contract to formulate the proposals—and, meanwhile, keep the plant open.

Using current technology a 2 MW solar array has an eight-acre footprint. “But technology is improving 1 unit electricity cost in kerala,” said Goodenough, “so they are taking less space as time goes by. We are looking at—it isn’t the technical term but—’daisychaining’ multiple 2 MW projects together.” Goodenough said that the property on the east side of Cayuga Lake has two or three areas of 20 to 30 acres each to devote to solar panels.

“The best solution for families, businesses and the upstate economy,” said Jennifer Tuttle of Earthjustice, “is to retire these dirty and outdated coal plants and invest in cost-effective transmission solutions.” A coalition of environmental groups, including Earthjustice, Sierra electricity youtube billy elliot Club, Citizens Campaign for the Environment and Environmental Advocates filed a motion with the PSC on Oct. 2 contending that low-cost transmission upgrades would move power around the region more effectively. They further contend that alternative methods of producing electricity could meet the gap of 300 MW that the PSC said the plant’s closure would cause.

But the issue is not simply about the quantity of power, but the quality. “Regional reliability councils” govern the interconnections in the continental power grid. In this context “reliability” means getting as much power as you need when you need it. But to power certain machines some industrial customers require an electrical supply with very small variations in voltage and frequency.

Nucor in Auburn, which makes rebar and other products from recycled steel, is NYSEG’s largest single customer. (It is part of a national company that is the largest steel producer in the U.S.) According to Goodenough, the motors in the Nucor facility require strict voltage control to function properly. He likened it to controlling pressure within a water pipe in addition to volume. While voltage control can be maintained over distances of 50 to 60 miles, it cannot be done over hundreds of miles. That is, removal of the Cayuga plant from the regional grid would leave a gap that would force Nucor to relocate. The Nucor plant in Auburn employs over 300 people, and the average annual salary is $78,000.

Since the 1960s electricity has gas leak los angeles california moved around the country in a national grid of interconnecting transmission lines owned by regional utilities. In North America the system consists of two major—Eastern and Western— and three minor—Quebec, Alaska, and Texas— “interconnections.” All of them are tied together via high-voltage direct current transmission lines to run at a synchronized frequency that fluctuates slightly around 60 Hz. Between 1968 and 2008 the system was governed by the North American Energy Reliability gas dryer vs electric dryer cost savings Council (NERC); “council” became “corporation” in 2008. The Eastern Interconnection, of which New York State is part, was the first one established in 1962.

In 1998, in response to Federal Energy Policy Act of 1992, which deregulated the electric utilities, NYSEG sold to AES seven of its power plants—including what had long been called Milliken Station in Lansing. The purpose of the legislation was to allow customers to purchase energy from competing producers. NYSEG went from owning both the production sites and the means of transmission, to only owning the power lines.

“The Independent Service Operators’ report said there’s more than enough power in New York State,” said Chock. As Chair of the Tompkins County Planning, Energy and Environmental Quality Committee, Chock told PSC, “Upgrading transmission lines la gas prices average is the choice between the two you have laid out that will best build for the future. But, I believe this particular discussion presents a false choice and skewed financials. We must upgrade transmission lines and re-power the Cayuga site with renewable power, probably solar.” Some, including chair of the Tompkins County legislature Martha Robertson, have advocated converting the Cayuga power plant to biomass burning.

AES had been experimenting with biomass burning well before the imposition of cap-and-trade by RGGI made coal-burning prohibitive. “We tried switchgrass, wood of various types, and waste products,” said gas hydrates Goodenough. “It would use a lot of land, which would open up a public issue.” In addition to the difficulty of producing enough fuel stock, said Goodenough, the fuel was costly.

He pointed out that as things stand, the PSC has requested that the proposed re-powering be done with natural gas. Goodenough noted that the PSC had never asked a coal-burning plant to be re-powered before so he had no precedent to use to guide a discussion with the public commission. Moreover, he was obligated to communicate with the PSC through NYSEG. He believed his best course was simply to respond to PSC requests to the letter.