The owners of a central New York power plant on Tuesday proposed shifting the facility from coal to natural gas, a plan that would carry a significant price tag but could save a large piece of Tompkins County’s tax base.
In a filing with the state Public Service Commission, the owners of the Cayuga Power Plant in the Tompkins County town of Lansing laid out four different options for making the switch, ranging from re-purposing its existing equipment to installing two, brand-new turbines.
The cost would range from $60 million to $370 million, according to Jerry Goodenough, chief operating officer of Upstate New York Power Producers, whose subsidiary owns the plant. The project would create over 500 construction jobs, he said.
“This repowering project will add millions of dollars to the local economy while continuing to provide support for local governments and the Lansing Central School District,” Goodenough said in a statement.
Many coal-fired power plants are facing an uncertain future in New York as natural-gas prices stay near decade-long lows and the state moves toward decreasing its cap on carbon emissions. Gov. Andrew Cuomo’s “Energy Highway” program has required the Public Service Commission to look at “repowering” plants as an alternative to shutting them down, while the soon-to-be-passed state budget requires the commission to take community costs into effect when looking at closing power facilities.
The move to natural gas would mean a reduction in emissions for the former AES Cayuga plant, with greater levels of efficiency — and a higher project cost — coming with the installation of new turbines.
The Lansing plant filing Tuesday started the clock for New York State Electric & Gas. The utility company will have 30 days to assess the plant’s proposals and make a recommendation to the Public Service Commission. NYSEG can choose to recommend one of the plant’s plans, or it could recommend upgrading transmission lines to make up for taking the facility off line.
A final decision from the Public Service Commission is expected in 2013.
The Cayuga facility’s contract with NYSEG runs through the end of the year, and its future could depend on what the commission decides. The plant is a top taxpayer in Tompkins County, representing about 2 percent of the county’s property-tax rolls, along with about 14 percent of the Lansing Central School District’s and 10 percent of the town’s.