DUNKIRK - NRG may turn to natural gas to keep its plant in Dunkirk operational.
A new front in the efforts to keep the NRG Energy Inc. power plant operating in Dunkirk was announced as part of a release on New York's Energy Highway Task Force website. NRG, and 84 other organizations, responded to Requests for Information by the task force.
The proposal was presented with a cover letter from NRG's Lee Davis, Northeast Region senior vice president. Davis said he was pleased to provide the Dunkirk Combined Cycle Repowering and Huntley Gas Co-Firing Conversion information.
NRG in Dunkirk is looking to utilize natural gas operation to keep the plant stable.
"NRG proposes to convert its two coal-fired facilities in Western New York to be dual-fuel capable by introducing natural gas at the existing sites," Davis wrote. "As an additional step, NRG proposes to completely repower its Dunkirk Station to a high-efficiency combined cycle unit."
According to the document, NRG's proposal would assure long-term reliability of the electric system is maintained while replacing Dunkirk's coal-fired units with a high-efficiency combined cycle unit could improve air emissions. The proposal also said it encourages the development of utility scale renewable generation by providing combined cycle technology in Western New York. In addition, there is the potential for some 500 construction jobs and more than two dozen permanent jobs.
Chautauqua County Executive Greg Edwards said he has been working with NRG and Davis for six months on the proposal. Edwards said NRG was doing what it could to make "sure it not only keeps running for the next three years, but provides job opportunities ... for generations due to the conversion from coal to natural gas."
Edwards said the state would provide some financial help through the Energy Highway program if the project was selected.
"The dollars designated to build this energy highway means not only transmitting it, like the grid, but production like NRG, so there are better ways of preserving the environment through conservation measures and those kinds of things," Edwards said.
It will be a competitive process to secure funding, with a lengthy list of proposals to be considered by the governor's team for funding. Edwards said the proposals far exceeded the money available
"I have to try and see to it that NRG's application is successful," Edwards stated. "It's important, the state assistance."
That assistance would allow NRG to develop for the future, after using its current equipment as part of a co-generation operation while needed.
"At the end, you'll have a brand new gas plant on the property in Dunkirk," Edwards said. "I cannot understate how exciting it is that NRG has been able now to announce through the application that they want to go forward with this development right here in Chautauqua County. NRG remains committed to finding ways to work with Chautauqua County to use this resource and develop new resources. Having this natural gas pipeline and a brand new natural gas plant while the current one is used as a coal plant, or as a co-generation plant while the new one is being built, is absolutely tremendous news for Chautauqua County."
NRG has a Payment in Lieu of Taxes agreement with the county that set payments to the city and school district, along with the county. Edwards said any PILOT-related issues have yet to be determined, but he is confident it would not be a problem.
"We've been very successful in developing a partnership with the city and the school," Edwards said. "I have no doubt we could do the exact same thing if this wonderful development can take place. I have been for many months and continue to do everything I can to help NRG to invest with us here in Chautauqua County."
Dunkirk Mayor Anthony J. Dolce was optimistic about the utility's plan to convert to natural gas.
"NRG is most definitely looking to do this, but it's in the very early stages. They have asked me to be a member of a coalition to encourage the governor to support their cause," Dolce said. "I think this is a very positive development for the city and county. It shows, once again, that NRG is committed to the area and I will do my part as a member of the coalition to help bring awareness to their goal."
According to its website, all responses and locations, if given in the RFI, are conceptual and none have been endorsed by the Energy Highway Task Force.
There were several different categories, ranging from ideas and transmission proposals to NRG's category of generation repowering. Comments on the proposals will be accepted by the Task Force until July 31 for consideration in drafting the Action Plan.