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Village approves peaking plant lease; power plant woes continue

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08/21/2015 9:30 AM |

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The Greenport Village Board has approved a lease agreement with a private company looking to build a peak-energy power plant on Moore’s Lane.

The agreement was reached at Thursday’s work session meeting, the same night some board members got into a heated debate over staffing at the village-owned power plant after an outage last month.

During Thursday’s four-and-a-half hour work session, the Village Board unanimously voted in favor of a contract with Global Common of Garden City, which agreed to pay the village $10,000 per megawatt of capacity each year to operate the proposed “peaking” power plant, which would operate during times of high energy demand, according to the lease.

While the lease has not been signed — and will not until the peaker plant project moves further along — what was approved Thursday was the framework of a potential agreement.

Global Common — which had already built a 54-megawatt peaking plant on Moore’s Lane in the early 2000s —  is responding to a request for proposals from PSEG Long Island for additional energy generation on the South Fork and to also “possibly provide power for the Village of Greenport.”

The proposed power plant would burn natural gas to generate electricity, which would be sold to PSEG Long Island at peak power usage times.

Global Common has also applied for a state grant program and recently won a $100,000 feasibility study for the village.

[Related story: Private power plant in Greenport applies to renew DEC permits]

Prior to the Village Board voting on the lease agreement, a couple of residents questioned the proposed location and said they believe the state has designated the site as parkland. Village attorney Joe Prokop said he’d looked into those claims and found the wooded area isn’t considered parkland, meaning the agreement can move forward.

In addition to discussing the proposed peaking plant, some Village Board members expressed concern about policies and procedures related to Greenport Village’s power plant following last month’s nearly three-hour power outage.

The July 19 outage forced some village businesses to close early that Sunday and others to remain open without power.

Village administrator Paul Pallas said the cause of the outage was initially believed to be a malfunctioning transformer, but then it turned out to be a faulty cable line instead.

He added he believes the power plant is in good working condition, but couldn’t guarantee it would function perfectly during a power outage.

After Deputy Mayor Jack Martilotta questioned why work couldn’t be done simultaneously to switch transformers while starting the generator, Mr. Pallas said there’s only a few workers on staff and they can only complete one task at a time.

Trustee Doug Roberts said he believes a policy should be in place to assist the utilities department in determining which procedures to follow during an outage.

“I don’t sense urgency in making sure this plant works,” he said. “I don’t sense we have a plan to go online if the power were to go out.”

Trustee Mary Bess Phillips said she resented Mr. Roberts remarks and said she believes those decisions should be left up to village staff and management.

“Telling them how to handle an electrical outage is not our job,” she said. “We’re to make sure that the proper staff is there to take care of it.”

Later during the meeting, Mr. Roberts said village employees have told him they’re “worried and concerned” about the power plant’s staffing.

“There’s been talk of potentially getting emergency help staff,” he said. “If the hospital was short on doctors, there’s probably somewhere they could go to find doctors on short notice. I don’t know if that exists in the power plant world, but we need to explore our options.”

Ms. Phillips also said she’s requested Mr. Pallas create a full report about the power plant’s history, including details about all the completed work and problems that have occurred there since 2007, as well plans for its future.

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