NRG?official: Bio-mass not best option

While NRG Energy Inc. “appreciates” the suggestion by a Congressional candidate to consider co-firing biomass with coal at the Dunkirk facility, an official at the company said they have already been down this road.

David Gaier, spokesman for NRG, sent a letter to the OBSERVER in response to Martha Robertson’s request that both the plants in Dunkirk, owned by NRG, and another owned by AES Energy in Lansing should co-fire with coal and biomass.

Robertson made the request to the commission during a Public Service Commission hearing on Monday in Central New York.

Gaier responded to the request in the letter noting the NRG plant has attempted this already in 2010. However, the company canceled its project in 2011.

NRG is currently hoping to repower its coal-fired plant and convert it to natural gas in a $500 million project.

Below is the complete letter from Gaier:

“NRG appreciates the thoughtfulness of Martha Robertson, running for Congress from New York’s 23rd District, and her suggestion that the PSC consider co-firing biomass with coal at the Dunkirk station as a ‘third way’ to a reliability solution.

“We’ve thought about it, too. NRG not only looked seriously at using biomass at Dunkirk, but actually received a 10-year contract from the New York State Energy Research and Development Authority (NYSERDA) in 2010 to co-fire clean wood biomass for up to 15 megawatts (MW) of the station’s total capacity. That represented approximately 10 percent of the total fuel for Units 1 & 2, which is the maximum size possible for a biomass project at the station, based on specific limitations of the site space and equipment, particularly the recently-installed backend environmental controls. However, based on a maximum of 15 MW, the economics of biomass co-firing at Dunkirk make the project impossible to implement. That is why the company regrettably canceled the project in 2011.

“The Dunkirk combined-cycle repowering project is the right option. It provides the required electrical system reliability called for by the PSC, as identified by National Grid. It allows NRG to shoulder the entire $500 million investment in a new plant, in return for price certainty on a power purchase agreement for a number of years.

“New York ratepayers will have to purchase and pay for their electricity in any event, because National Grid does not generate power, only moves it. The question here is: where will it be generated? Out of state, likely at an old and obsolete coal plant? Or at the cleanest, most efficient plant within New York State, saving ratepayers many hundreds of millions of dollars, while maintaining jobs and the local tax base?

“We believe the choice is obvious.”