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Power Company Makes Pitch To Convert Closed Nuclear Plant

Publication: The Southampton Press
By Erin McKinley   Dec 11, 2012 1:12 PM
Dec 12, 2012 9:09 AM

Two companies are battling for a contract with the Long Island Power Authority to open a new natural gas-fueled power plant on Long Island, and one held a public information meeting last week to outline the benefits of converting the former Shoreham nuclear power plant to suit the company’s needs.

J-Power USA, an Illinois-based subsidiary of the Japanese firm J-Power, wants to install a modern natural gas-powered plant at the site of the never-opened nuclear power plant built by the Long Island Lighting Company in the 1970s. The company is seeking permission to transform the multimillion-dollar property, which is now owned by LIPA, and reopen it as a Tesla generating station—a combined cycle power plant that would become part of the Shoreham Energy Park already operating at the location. Owned by J-Power, the Shoreham Energy Park is a single-turbine system that currently generates 79.9 megawatts of energy for LIPA using jet fuel technology.

The company’s proposed plant at Shoreham would cost between $600 million and $700 million to complete, and would produce roughly 400 megawatts of energy—enough to power 400,000 Suffolk County homes, according to Ken Ford, a representative of J-Power, who attended the public meeting held last Thursday, December 6, at North Shore Public Library in Shoreham, which attracted more than 100 people.

The other option now on the table, which is being pitched by the Caithness Energy Corporation, does not seek to renovate the nuclear power plant. Rather, the firm wants to construct a new natural gas-powered plant, capable of producing 377 megawatts of energy, next to another one that it owns and operates in Yaphank. The company’s current 350-megawatt facility, which is located on 20 acres and runs on natural gas, is estimated to provide power to 10 percent of the homes on Long Island.

Last year, LIPA announced its intention to provide more energy to Long Islanders, including those on the East End, and requested bids from those companies interested in building a new power plant. After reviewing 18 submitted bids, LIPA announced in September that the Shoreham and Yaphank proposals were the two finalists. LIPA is expected to make a decision in the next few months.

The Tesla generating station is a modern natural-gas plant that operates as a two-turbine combined-cycle power plant, a new model that is twice as efficient as traditional single-turbine systems, according to Mr. Ford.

“The efficiency of generating the power that this technology provides is such that it will help on reliability and it should help on cost,” said Mike Anderson, a representative of TRC Environmental Corporation, the company that is advising J-Power in the initiative. “It helps in terms of having a lower environmental impact per megawatt of power provided to customers than anything else that is now utilizing fossil fuels.”

Mr. Ford, who works at the much smaller power plant already operating at the Shoreham facility, said that traditional power plants on Long Island, like the one in Northport, operate off a single turbine. The new system proposed by J-Power utilizes two turbines, a newer technology that captures the pollutants created when energy is produced and uses them to fuel the second half of the energy-production process.

The system’s first turbine operates off natural gas that would be transported to the plant via a pipe that runs below the Long Island Sound from Connecticut. Once it arrives at the plant, the natural gas would be placed in a combustion turbine that would create energy. During this process, a heat recovery generator is used to collect excess exhaust from the turbine and transfer it to a steam turbine. With the addition of water, steam is produced and rotated to power the generator a second time.

The system, proponents explained, means that the generator can run twice as long as its single-cycle counterparts, doubling its energy efficiency, from 30 percent to 60 percent.

Mr. Ford noted that if his firm’s plan is ultimately approved by LIPA, J-Power would pay the cost of tapping into the supply pipe and extending it east to Shoreham.

“This proposal represents the newest technology, so it would be a very low emitter in terms of pollution and very efficient in terms of fuel use,” Mr. Ford said. “You would be saving fuel and, at the same time, having less emissions in the atmosphere.”

Steve Thome, the vice president of development for J-Power, said it is hard to say which part of Long Island the new plant would power. He explained that, under the current system, electricity is created by a system of plants that feed power lines that connect the entire island.

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