Prestigious Research Organization’s Study Concludes that Modern Natural Gas Power Plants are Needed to Integrate Renewable Energy Resources

White paper says renewable energy won’t work without fast-ramping natural gas plants to provide backup to meet demand when renewable resources are not available 
YAPHANK, NY  September 7, 2016  Massachusetts-based National Bureau of Economic Research (NBER), a leading nonprofit economic research organization, concluded, in a recently released white paper, that when intermittent and non-dispatchable renewable energy resources such as solar and wind resources are added to electric utility systems, the systems require additional, fast-reacting fossil-fueled generation that can respond quickly to rapid changes that occur in the output of the solar and wind resources. The NEBR white paper further concluded that renewables and fast-reacting fossil technologies appear as highly complementary and that they should be jointly installed to meet the goals of cutting emissions and ensuring a stable supply.
New gas-fired, combined-cycle power plants, such as the proposed 750 megawatt (MW) Caithness II project, are specifically designed to be able to ramp up and down quickly to changes in customer demand and generation supply, while also being highly fuel efficient. Indeed, the Caithness II project can start up quickly (it can achieve 620 MW in 45 minutes), can rapidly change its output at up to 34 MW per minute, and takes only 32 minutes to shut down from full load. The Caithness II plant can thus readily support the integration of substantial additional renewables on the Long Island electric system that are planned to be added to meet the Governor’s goal to provide 50 percent of the State’s electricity from renewable resources by 2030.
Notably, unless rapid ramping, gas-fired, combined-cycle plants, such as Caithness II, are added to the system, the old, inefficient and polluting combustion turbines (peaking units) on the Long Island electric system will need to be used far more extensively, thereby undercutting the goal of reducing the use of fossil fuel and the emissions of greenhouse gases and other air pollutants. The old Port Jefferson, Northport, and Barrett steam plants take considerable time to start up and shut down and change their output, and thus cannot support the integration of renewables.
The NBER report, Bridging the Gap: Do Fast Reacting Fossil Technologies Facilitate Renewable Energy Diffusion?, was conducted by the Euro-Mediterranean Center on Climate Change and the Fondazione Eni Enrico Mattei in Italy, in collaboration with the French Economic Observatory, and Syracuse University. The study looked at wind, solar and other renewable energy plants across 26 countries between 1990 and 2013. Researchers found important synergies between renewable energy resources and fast-reacting natural gas plants.
Essentially, what the study concluded is that renewable energy won’t work without adding modern, fast-reacting, natural gas plants to provide power when the sun isn’t shining, or the wind isn’t blowing, said Ross Ain, President of Caithness Long Island II, LLC, a subsidiary of Caithness Energy, a leading developer of clean, reliable energy, including Caithness Shepherds Flat, one of the world’s largest wind farms, located in Arlington, Oregon. Natural gas continues to be an essential bridge fuel that represents the best support in attaining aggressive greenhouse gas reduction goals, and gas-fired, combined-cycle plants, such as the Caithness II project, do so in an economical and environmentally beneficial manner. Caithness has also developed a number of solar and geothermal projects, in addition to several natural gas-fired, combined-cycle plants, including the 350 MW Caithness I facility in Yaphank.
Since commencing commercial operations in August 2009, the Caithness I combined-cycle plant has substantially decreased the region’s carbon footprint and reduced regional carbon emissions by three million tons, making it the most effective single action undertaken by the Long Island Power Authority (LIPA) to address the global issue of climate change.
The results of the NBER study are significant, especially in light of Governor Andrew M. Cuomo’s pledge to lead the nation in addressing climate change, and reducing, by 2030, greenhouse-gas emissions by 40 percent from 1990 levels, added Mr. Ain. Modern, gas-fired generating facilities will greatly enhance New York State’s efforts in attaining those important goals.
About Caithness Long Island, LLC
Long Island, LLC, is a subsidiary of Caithness Energy, LLC, 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
Contact: Don Miller
West End Strategies, Ltd.
[email protected]

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