NRG touts green power plant

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Astorians may be getting some more new power generators in their neighborhood over the next decade, but they may breathe easier about the latest round.

NRG Inc., a company that owns a swath of the former Con Edison land at the northern peninsula of Astoria, is planning to replace a number of its aging, peak−power turbines with newer, greener models, resulting in a net decrease in pollution for the area.

“That big yellow plume you see in the summer? That’s them,” said Anthony Gigantiello, president of the Coalition Helping Organize a Kleaner Environment, referring to the exhaust from the 1970−vintage turbines.

He praised the company’s plan to reduce pollution. “They were very receptive to us. I’m overwhelmed by this project. It’s going to be a big plus for us,” he said.

CHOKE, a group founded with the mission of convincing power companies to replace existing power plants before building new ones, unanimously approved the proposal at a meeting Monday. NRG hopes to secure permits from the state Department of Environmental Conservation in order to be ready for the next round of bidding for state contracts.

Residents will have an opportunity to comment on the plan Wednesday at two hearings at Riccardo’s by the Bridge at 21−01 24th Ave. The hearings are scheduled for 4 p.m. and 7 p.m.

The plan would reduce the number of turbines on the site from 31 to four, while increasing the capacity of the site from 600 megawatts to 1,040 megawatts. The new, natural gas−fueled generators would reduce nitrogen oxide emissions — a compound that contributes to high ozone warning days — by 1,300 tons a year, including a 98 percent reduction during peak operations. It would also reduce the annual greenhouse gas emissions by the equivalent of 185,000 cars.

The new generators would produce slightly more particulate matter — described by NRG staff as a combination of ash, water droplets and gaseous compounds — than the old generators, but said they would work with the community to offset that increase.

The project would be implemented in two phases. The first would eliminate seven of the larger turbine units in 2010.

By 2012, two newer, larger units would be in place. The second phase would replace 24 smaller turbine units with two more larger units. It is scheduled to last from 2012 to 2014.

The total cost would be around $1.5 billion, said Lee Davis, NRG’s vice president of asset management for New York.

Gigantiello, still angry with Astoria Energy for its plans to build a new power plant in the area, wondered why the New York Power Authority would push that plant over the NRG proposal, which replaces outdated, existing generators.

He proposed a letter−writing campaign to state government officials to argue for the priority of the NRG plan, which would potentially compete with Astoria Energy for access to hookup sites to the Con Ed−run power grid.

Reach reporter Jeremy Wash by e−mail at jwalsh@timesledger.com or by phone at 718−229−0300, Ext. 154.

Posted 6:38 pm, October 10, 2011
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