Legal & Regulatory

Last New York Coal Plant Set to Close

The last operating coal-fired power plant in New York state could close by mid-February. Somerset Operating Co. on Nov. 15 asked the New York State Public Service Commission to waive the state’s 180-day notice requirement to shutter the 675-MW plant, asking regulators to allow the facility to close as early as Feb. 15, 2020.

Somerset in a news release Monday said it is retiring the plant due to stricter state emissions regulations, and also said poor economics led to its decision. New York Gov. Andrew Cuomo and state regulators earlier this year adopted rules to further reduce carbon dioxide emissions from power plants, designed to end coal-fired power generation in the state by year-end 2020. The state also has set a goal of 100% carbon-free energy by 2040.

Owner Plans Data Center at Site

The plant’s owner, Riesling Power LLC, has proposed building a $550 million data center on the 1,800-acre site of the Somerset plant, located on the shore of Lake Ontario in Niagara County. The proposal also includes plans for a lakefront town park, supported by state funding that already has been approved.

Riesling also wants to build a data center at the site of another coal plant it is currently shutting down in Tompkins County, New York. The Cayuga plant began its closure process on Oct. 31, after deactivation papers were filed with the state in June. Riesling has said the data centers would be called the Empire State Data Hub.

The New York Independent System Operator (NYISO), which operates the state’s electric grid, is evaluating whether the power from Somerset is still needed to maintain grid reliability, though the group is expected to sign-off on the closure. Coal-fired generation has produced less than 1% of New York’s electricity each of the past two years, after producing about 10% of the state’s power a decade ago.

Somerset Supervisor Daniel M. Engert told the Buffalo News that the plant’s closure “marks the end of an era in our town. That plant has been a big part of our history for the last 30-plus years.” The plant, also known as the Kintigh Generating Station, was built by New York State Electric & Gas Corp. and entered commercial operation in 1984. It was operated by AES Corp. until AES filed bankruptcy, with the plant and the Cayuga plant sold to Upstate New York Power Producers in 2012.

The Upstate group sold both plants to Riesling Power in 2016.

The Somerset plant employed about 100 workers at the height of operations, though only 55 workers are employed at the plant today. A Riesling spokeswoman in a statement said, “The company still plans to offer Somerset employees the option to work at Data Hub, and state officials have indicated retraining resources would be available to those interested.”

Darrell Proctor is a POWER associate editor (@DarrellProctor1, @POWERmagazine).

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