Proposed plant applauds renewable/fossil study

Future fossil: The natural gas-fired Caithness II power plant proposed for Yaphank may be Long Island's best renewable-energy hope.

As renewable programs struggle to set a new national energy tone, the Long Island-based subsidiary of a major independent power producer is lauding a new international study calling for greater collaborations between renewable sources and “fast-reacting fossil-fueled generation.”

The idea, according to a white paper recently released by the Massachusetts-based National Bureau of Economic Research, is that “intermittent and non-dispatchable renewable energy resources” like solar and wind aren’t reliable enough to meet growing energy demands by themselves, based on current technologies – and energy from good, old-fashioned fossil-fuel sources is needed to plug the power gap during natural drop-offs in solar and wind production.

“Renewable and fast-reacting fossil technologies appear as highly complementary,” the white paper notes, adding such tech “should be jointly installed to meet the goals of cutting emissions and ensuring a stable supply.”

Ross Ain: Come together.

Ross Ain: Come together.

The study – “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 (bring your dictionnaire to the website) and Syracuse University. It considered wind, solar and other renewable-energy plants in 26 countries over 13 years before concluding there are important synergies between renewable generators and natural-gas plants.

That sounds about right to Caithness Long Island II, a subsidiary of New York City-based Caithness Energy and the entity behind Caithness II, a 750-megawatt natural gas-fired power plant proposed for Yaphank. The Caithness II project would supplement Caithness Long Island, a 350-megawatt gas-fired generator that in 2009 became the first major baseload power plant to open on Long Island in three decades, and currently provides roughly 10 percent of the Island’s electricity.

Caithness II is also designed specifically to ramp up and down quickly, as dictated by customer demand and fluctuating energy supplies. According to Caithness Energy, the proposed plant can go from producing zero megawatts to 620 MW in just 45 minutes and requires only 32 minutes to go from full load to shutdown.

That’s generations better than slowpoke steam plants in Port Jefferson and Northport, disqualifying those old-school generators as on-demand suppliers. And it’s exactly the kind of rapid-response, fossil-fuel stopgap championed in the NBER white paper, notes Caithness II President Ross Ain, who believes the proposed plant is perfectly suited to support the integration of substantial renewable-generated electricity into the Long Island grid.

“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,” Ain said in a statement.

Caithness II remains in a holding pattern while regional lawmakers, utilities and investors continue to review market conditions and gauge future Long Island energy needs – but there’s no doubt, Ain added, that this is what the NBER’s researchers had in mind when they penned “Bridging the Gap.”

“Natural gas continues to be an essential ‘bridge fuel’ that represents the best support in attaining aggressive greenhouse-gas reduction goals,” the Caithness II president said. “And gas-fired, combined-cycle plants such as the Caithness II project do so in an economical and environmentally beneficial manner.”

2 Comments on "Proposed plant applauds renewable/fossil study"

  1. What this article does not acknowledge is that a) Long Island has an extreme surplus of electricity to supply because LIPA overbuilt our grid (We, the ratepayers, have already PAID for this supply and it’s enough to last until at least 2028!); b) ratepayers have to pay out of their own pockets for the construction of another new plant (a few billion dollars), AND c) we, Long Islanders, would also need to pay in advance for the natural gas (e.g. a “fully committed capacity contract”) EVEN if we don’t use all the gas we contracted to purchase over the LIFETIME of the plant! Building Caithness II doesn’t make any sense for Long Island. We already have a new power plant that could “bridge the gap,” and the older, less “efficient” ones only run a total of 100 hours throughout the entire year as is. As more renewables are placed online, the operation hours of these older plants would decrease even further. If ratepayers have to continue paying for PSEGLI/LIPA projects, then put our money into renewables and into the “Reforming the Energy” vision that is already working elsewhere around the state. That’s what Long Island needs right now. The fossil fuel supply is a surplus as is, and it’s already been paid for, by all of us.

  2. Annette Kattau | September 8, 2016 at 9:22 PM |

    far from renewable it’s a cash cow as long as Aines is handing out $$$$..renewable is wind and solar. This is about greed.

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