Decades-old plants deemed “grossly inefficient” and “environmentally unfriendly”
Report supports moving forward with the new and highly efficient plants like the proposed Caithness II power plant in YaphankÂ
YAPHANK, NYÂ July 21, 2015Â Â Citing inefficiencies, obsolescence and environmental unfriendliness, among other critical factors, a new report assessing the current National Grid-owned plants on Long Island calls for the immediate retirement of these aging facilities as soon as new generating capacity can be in place. The study, called theÂ Survey of National Grid Generation Formerly Owned by LILCO, was conducted by energy industry veteran Raul Rodriguez and reviewed the fleet of power plants built by the Long Island Lighting Company (LILCO), and now owned and operated by National Grid The plants examined in the report supply electricity to the Long Island Power Authority (LIPA) and were built in the 1950s, ’60s and ’70s.
Mr. Rodriguez’s in-depth study examined National Grid’s three baseload steam plants at E.F. Barrett (Island Park), Northport and Port Jefferson, along with 39 natural gas and diesel-fueled peaking plants at 11 sites throughout Nassau and Suffolk counties.
The report firmly supports the replacement of the decades-old generators with new, modern, highly efficient power stations such as the existing 350-megawatt (MW) combined cycle, natural gas-fueled Caithness Long Island Energy Center in Yaphank, and the proposed 750-MW Caithness II project. Caithness II was selected by LIPA in 2013 as part of a highly competitive bid process because it will provide the best value to Long Island ratepayers and the environment. The project presently has many of the necessary environmental and municipal approvals to begin construction. In August 2014 PSEG-Long Island (PSEG-LI) recommended that the project be put on hold.
“I was shocked to learn of the horrendous impact on marine life caused by these legacy plants,” said Richard Amper, Executive Director of the Long Island Pines Barrens Society. “This impact goes well beyond clean air and concern about climate change.”
“The high mortality rate of fish eggs and larvae and the harmful effect of thermal pollution are astounding and unacceptable to sustaining marine life,” said Neal Lewis, Executive Director of the Sustainability Institute at Molloy College. “This threat to the marine ecosystems from the old technology of once-through-cooling is unacceptable and another compelling reason why the old LILCO plants must either be retired without further delay or replaced with new technology that does not require once-through-cooling.”
“We cannot continue to rely on decades-old plants that threaten marine life and the air we breathe,” said Brookhaven Town Councilwoman Connie Kepert. “In addition to the ongoing environmental hazards created by these obsolete plants, relying on them jeopardizes the reliability of Long Island’s power grid. Long Island needs clean, modern plants like the proposed Caithness II project in Yaphank.”
Natural gas-fired combined cycle generation is the most advanced power generation technology available today and utilizes much less fuel and produces significantly fewer emissions than power plants built decades ago, such as the National Grid plants covered in the survey. The existing and proposed Caithness plants employ state-of-the-art air cooling. This saves billions of gallons of water from being extracted from Long Island’s aquifers, the principal source of drinking water in Nassau and Suffolk counties, and avoids the severe environmental damage associated with the withdrawal of vast amounts of water from local waterways for cooling.
Highlights of the report, which can be found in its entirety at https://caithnesslongisland.com/?p=455 include:
Three major steam turbine baseload plants, E.F. Barrett, Northport and Port Jefferson, are among the oldest in the fleet and pose the most threats to the environment. All three plants are located on the coasts of Long Island (E.F. Barrett on Barnum’s Channel in the Western Bays, Northport on the Long Island Sound and Port Jefferson on Port Jefferson Harbor) and utilize once-through cooling systems that draw massive quantities of water through heat exchangers in the plant. Then, the heated water is returned to the body of water resulting in adverse changes to the natural ecosystem. The initial water intake causes great harm to local fisheries through the entrapment of billions of larvae and fish eggs in the heat exchangers and the impingement of thousands of fish on the intake screens installed to protect the plant equipment, according to reports issued by the New York State Department of Environmental Conservation (NYSDEC).
Because of the age of the steam plants and the old, obsolete technologies employed, the report deemed the National Grid plants to be significant sources of air pollution, emitting orders of magnitude more air pollutants than a modern base load, combined cycle power plant.
Emissions data obtained from filings with the NYSDEC reveal a sharp contrast between emissions from the three National Grid steam plants and the Caithness Long Island Energy Center, which commenced commercial operations in 2009, and presently provides more than 20% of the power generated on Long Island. The Caithness plant produces nearly 80% less nitrogen oxide (NOx), 77% fewer particulates and more than 98% less carbon monoxide (CO) per unit of electric output than the existing National Grid steam plants operating on Long Island.
Susceptibility to Coastal Storms
Since all three National Grid steam plants are sited on bodies of water, the locations make these plants highly susceptible to flooding from coastal storms, as evidenced by hurricanes Irene and Lee in 2011 and super storm Sandy in 2012. Many power plants throughout the region experienced significant damage and extended outages as a result of these storms. The advent of global climate change and rising sea levels raise serious concerns about the resiliency and reliability of the plants during a major coastal flooding event. The report also noted that several cables that feed power to Long Island similarly experienced outages during these storms, leaving the grid exceptionally vulnerable to being able to deliver sufficient power to meet the region’s everyday demand.
The age of the existing National Grid plants serving Long Island are cause for concern with respect to reliability and the increased cost to operate and maintain them. Replacement parts for the old equipment are more costly and harder to find. Outdated technologies often require plant operators to manually perform certain tasks and manipulate steam and oil valves in order to make the plants run. Compared to the advanced automated plants being built today, the labor intensive operations performed at Long Island’s old plants is slower, more prone to fuel leaks and offers a less consistent ramping rate to deliver power to the grid. Also of great concern is the substantial loss of in-house knowledge of operating and maintaining these plants safely and reliably due to the attrition of power plant operators over the years. Additionally, the manufacturers of the original equipment similarly have increasingly fewer personnel trained in the old technology to properly address repair issues when machinery malfunctions or breaks down.
Of the 39 oil-fired National Grid peaking plants, formerly owned by LILCO, all but three were installed between 1962 and 1975. These plants, on 11 sites across Long Island, help provide power during peak demands. As with the large steam plants, the peaking plants pose many of the same problems in terms of obsolescence and environmental impacts. And, like the older steam plants, the expertise on operating these facilities lies within an aging workforce. The study calls into question how such operational knowledge is passed on to personnel as the workforce turns over.
High operating temperatures and stress experienced by the rotating components of the gas turbines of the peaking plants result in finite life for the rotors of the gas turbines. Many of the gas turbines on Long Island are approaching the end of that life and replacement rotors can cost upwards of $500,000 per unit and are scarce in the marketplace. Similarly, as with the old steam plants, replacement parts have become increasingly costly and more difficult to source.
“The study clearly underscores the critical nature of the dangers of continuing to rely on plants that are obsolete and pose threats to the environment and the reliability of Long Island’s electrical grid,” said Ross D. Ain, President of Caithness Long Island, LLC. “New, state-of-the-art generation like Caithness II will help ensure the reliability of the grid while providing tangible benefits including cost-effective power generation, cleaner air, improved fisheries and less polluted waterways. We at Caithness concur with the study that the fleet of old power generators, formerly owned by LILCO, need to be retired without delay and replaced with new, efficient, environmentally cleaner generation.”
About Caithness Long Island II, LLC
Caithness Long Island II, LLC, is a subsidiary of Caithness Energy, L.L.C., a privately held, New York-based independent power producer. For over 25 years, Caithness has been a pioneer in the development of clean, reliable energy. More information can be found at: www.caithnesslongisland.com.
Survey Finds Existing Fleet of Old LILCO Power Plants Obsolete and Should be Retired as Soon as Possible to Improve the Environment and Boost Reliability of LI's Electric Grid
Decades-old plants deemed “grossly inefficient” and “environmentally unfriendly”