By Mark Reynolds
Michelle Hook, Danskammer Energy Director of Public Relations, said she would like to correct much of the information that has been put forth about their proposed new power plant in the Town of Newburgh. She spoke with the Southern Ulster Times to provide the company’s perspective on their proposal.
Hook said their new natural gas plant will be capable of producing 560 megawatts of electricity and could “ramp up” to 600 megawatts, if needed. She estimated the cost of a new plant at $500 million, which is up by about $100,000 from earlier projections that were made at the start of the application process.
Hook said the entire project will be funded by private investors, “and none of it is coming from ratepayers, taxpayers or subsidized through the state of New York.” She noted that Danskammer’s CEO William Reid and his investment group have sought investors, like Tiger Infrastructure, to fund the project.
Hook said Scenic Hudson and others are pushing to have a battery storage facility built on the site, instead of a natural gas powered plant.
“I think the piece they conveniently leave out is that batteries don’t generate any power, they just store power that’s been generated somewhere else,” she said. “So you’re going to remove a current 535 megawatt power plant from the lower Hudson Valley and put something in there that generates no power – that’s number one.”
Hook said the next question is where does the energy come from that will power the batteries.
“There’s no transmission connected to wind and solar and no wind and solar in the southern Hudson Valley to power them; so you would be powering them with traditional fossil power,” she said. “The grid right now is predominantly 96% fossil fuel generated. I don’t see what they’re gaining by adding batteries there.” She did conceded that if battery storage can be proven to be economically and technologically viable, Danskammer would consider it as part of the mix at the site.
Hook said critics have voiced concern about Danskammer using hydrogen at a new plant.
“They’ve been trying to poke holes in our hydrogen effort for some time and the arguments they use are the same things they are arguing in favor of putting batteries there...So I don’t understand how their plan is any better.”
Hooks said 10% of hydrogen can be blended into the existing pipelines to the plant but eventually the pipes would have replaced so they can fully handle hydrogen, “so it can be transported from a green site where you have wind and solar and an electrolyser on site that makes the hydrogen.” An electrolyser is used to split water into hydrogen and oxygen using electrical energy. This hydrogen process is the only practical way to generate a zero carbon fuel supply.
Hook addressed the issue of the amount of emissions that would come from the new plant, noting that it is more accurately measured by how much is emitted every hour that the plant is in operation.
“If the existing  plant or the next door Roseton plant were to run for just five days they would emit more than a new Danskammer would emit if it ran 24/7, 365 days,” she said.
Hook provided information from Danskammer and Roseton’s official air permits, showing potential facility emissions, with both running 24/7, 365 days: in one year the new Danskammer plant would emit 143.5 tons of Nitrogen Oxide [NOx] while Roseton comes in at 14,575 tons; concerning Sulfur Dioxide [SO2], a new Danskammer plant would emit 24.4 tons per year and Roseton would hit 13,618 tons and on Carbon Dioxide [CO2] the upgraded Danskammer plant would release 115.6 tons per year while Roseton tops out at 13,210,246 tons annually.
Hook said when an air quality application for a permit is submitted to the state, they pick one year and ask, “what your emissions were for that year and what your emissions would be if you ran 24/7, 365 days. So they [critics] are comparing apples to oranges, an old plant that ran less than 20 days a year to a new plant, that at 100% of the time. We already know that the new plant will run between 60 to 70% of the time, at max, and every year it will run less and less than that.”
Hook said the annual emission figures she mentioned are meant to show the state how much less the new plant emits into the atmosphere.
“They [state] want to make sure that we have the right air quality control systems on the facility [and] it’s not meant to be representative of air quality and [the environmental organization] Scenic Hudson knows that. It is a misrepresentation of information of air quality when all it’s meant to do is to show what our numbers would be if we ran 24/7, 365 days,” Hook said. “The state is doing a check to make sure that we fall under certain thresholds...There is no way our plant is going to make the local air dirtier, the math just doesn’t work.” She said those opposed to a new plant use calculations as if the plant were to run 100% of the time and she insists that is not what is planned.
Hook pointed out that the Indian Point Nuclear Power Plant in northern Westchester County will compete its shutdown in April 2021. She noted that when Indian Point ceases operation the dependency on fossil fuels in the area that plant served may rise by roughly 20%, “regardless if the new Danskammer is built or not.” She contends that even with recent additions to the energy grid, such as Cricket Valley, a 1,100 megawatt plant in Dover Plains that opened in 2020, there still may be issues due to Indian Point’s closure. She pointed out that in August 2020 the CPV Valley Energy Center was, “maxed out every day, all day and Indian Point still hadn’t completed its shutdown. One of their reactors was open and still providing power and the [old] Danskammer and Roseton plants also ran in August of last year.” She said if a new Danskammer plant is not built the two old plants will run far more often while adding significantly more emissions into the environment.
Hook is mindful of the state’s mandated economy wide goal of being 100% carbon free by 2040. She said if the state can provide the necessary wind and solar power, Danskammer can then make hydrogen to run their facility.
“If for some reason they don’t meet their target or we can’t figure out the transportation aspect of hydrogen, we have agreed to shut down in 2040,” she said.
Hook highlighted the status of the permitting process [Article 10] for approval of their application and eventual construction of a new plant. In November, Danskammer provided additional information to the Siting Board on how Danskammer can meet the provisions of the NYS Climate Leadership and Community Protection Act [CLCPA] by 2035 and 2040. The board has 60 days to review this information and indicate if Danskammer has answered all of their questions and whether the company now has a complete application. Once deemed complete, a one year clock starts where the Siting Board takes a “deep dive” of the entire application, including testimonies from experts, both pro and con, concerning Danskammer’s proposal, along with public comment at scheduled public hearings. The exact setting of the hearings will depend on covid-19 restrictions, if any. Hook said a final decision by the Siting Board on whether or not to grant Danskammer a permit is expected after the final year review.