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Source: Newsday

Repowering proposed for Island Park energy plant


Posted: May 9, 2014
Originally Published: May 8, 2014

Even as it moves ahead with plans for a big new power plant in Yaphank, LIPA this year will consider a separate proposal by National Grid to overhaul an antiquated plant in Island Park that would vastly increase that facility's power output.

In state filings that began last October, National Grid has outlined a plan to "repower" the E.F. Barrett Power Station to modernize the plant and increase its total output to 915 megawatts from the current 650 megawatts.

The plan would involve replacing two half-century-old steam generators rated at a combined 370 megawatts with a new more modern plant capable of producing 625 megawatts. A megawatt powers around 800 homes. The plant would be fueled primarily with natural gas, with capability to burn low-sulfur fuel oil for shorter periods.

In addition to the main generator, National Grid and its partner, NextEra Energy Resources (formerly FPL Energy), have proposed replacing a separate fleet of smaller so-called peak-power generators on the site with a new generation of units rated at 290 megawatts -- 10 megawatts more than they currently provide. Peaking power units are primarily used during high-demand times.

National Grid wouldn't discuss the costs of the project, saying in a statement there are "a number of variables to be considered and final costs of each repowering option are still being evaluated."

The main plant could be ready for operation by 2019, the National Grid filings say, while the smaller units could be in place as early as 2017.

The Long Island Power Authority has built the prospect of a repowered Island Park facility into its long-term plan, listing 837 megawatts of total capacity from the facility, by 2019.

In its initial October filing, National Grid said LIPA would make a decision on whether to move ahead with the plan by spring of 2014. But in responses to Newsday, National Grid said it plans to submit a proposal to LIPA "sometime this year, and [we] do not have a timeline when LIPA and the board of trustees will review and make a final decision."

LIPA in a statement said it "will evaluate the proposal and determine whether to seek trustee approval" for a contract, even as it reviews proposals it has received from other developers. It said the size of the "any repowered plant remains to be determined."

A 2019 start date for the main Island Park plant would follow by a year the anticipated completion date of the Caithness II 752-megawatt project in Yaphank, which LIPA selected last year. LIPA trustees are expected to vote on a contract valued at more than $3 billion with Caithness later this year, after PSEG Long Island completes a review of the project.

National Grid and NextEra Energy Resources would be 50-50 partners in the Island Park project, National Grid and NextEra said

National Grid owns several other large Long Island power plants, including facilities in Northport and Port Jefferson, that generate the lion's share of the grid's 6,000 megawatts of capacity. NextEra and affiliates have contracts with LIPA for two small plants and a capacity contract with a plant called Marcus Hook.

One LIPA trustee said he was surprised to hear the plan has progressed to the level it has.

"We were never presented with any plans," said trustee Matthew Cordaro, a former Long Island Lighting Co. executive who has written studies proposing repowering of local plants over the past decade. "I'd have difficulty supporting it without a lot more information."

A National Grid web site, www.islandparkenergy.com, says the Island Park Energy Center "will provide a more efficient and cost-effective facility to produce electricity while minimizing impacts on the surrounding communities and providing tax benefits into the future."

Numerous documents and repsonses have already been filed with the Department of Public Service, including comments by local environmental groups. In one filing, an attorney for Citizens Campaign for the Environment raised questions about the need for the plant.

A "fundamental question" about the project that has "yet to be answered," according to the letter from the group's attorney Reed Super, is "whether there is -- currently and over the expected life of the repowered station -- a need for a new fossil-fueled steam-electric power plant in or near Island Park . . . to replace the existing one."