Astoria Generating holds off on idling floating barges

Astoria Generating Co. LP is not ready to retire certain generating units around New York City, including two barges.

Astoria told the New York Public Service Commission on Aug. 3 that it is withdrawing part of a December 2011 notice that it intends to retire the Astoria Station Unit 20 in Queens and the Gowanus Barges 1 and 4 in Brooklyn.

The part it has withdrawn is the notice related to Gowanus Barges 1 and 4. The barges have remained in service since the notice and up to the present time, the company said. The company said it never contacted the New York ISO to confirm the retirement of the barges or changed their operation status of capability under the North American Electric Reliability Corp.’s Generator Availability Data System reporting instructions.

Astoria Generating didn’t say why it has rescinded plans to mothball the barges and said it would re-file with the New York commission if it changes its mind in the future.

The Aug. 3 letter was signed by John Paul Reese, Senior Vice President of US Power Generating Co., the parent of Astoria Generating.

The December 2011 notice said that Barges 1 and 4 each have 160 MW of nameplate capacity and are oil-fired combustion turbines. Astoria Station Unit 20 is a 180-MW (nameplate), gas-fired steam unit. The plan was to mothball all of these units by June 11.

“The filing of this Notice has been triggered as the direct result of the manner in which the New York Independent System Operator, Inc. (‘NYISO’) is currently interpreting and applying its buyer-side market power mitigation rules and the concomitant market conditions and other circumstances as they are known as of this time,” said the December 2011 notice. “Issues involving the Buyer-Side Market Power Rules are currently the subject of pending complaints before the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission (‘FERC’) that were filed this past summer.”

Gowanus is a 542 MW fuel oil and natural gas facility consisting of 32 simple cycle combustion turbine units situated equally across four generating barges located in Gowanus Bay, said the US Power Generating website. “The facility is one of the largest floating generating stations in the world. The site also includes approximately 25 acres of piers and submerged land,” the website added. “The Gowanus facility can be controlled remotely and can start with as little as fifteen minutes notice. The units are flexible from an operating perspective and are available year-round to offer system-peaking capacity.”

In December 2011, at the same time as it was filing the mothball notice with the New York PSC, US Power Generating announced that it was exploring the sale of two floating power barges and up to three fuel barges located at Gowanus. The sale process was being launched in response to actions taken by the NYISO that resulted in dramatically lower market clearing prices for generating units in New York City. 

Astoria Generating, along with TransCanada Corp., filed a complaint with FERC in July 2011 seeking to overturn NYISO’s decision allowing a government subsidized generating project to be exempt from rules governing uneconomic entry into the marketplace.  

“NYISO has created a situation where these barges will have significantly greater value in another location. As a result, it is incumbent upon the company to explore a sale process to improve our financial position,” said Mark Sudbey, CEO of US Power Generating, in the December 2011 announcement. “These are unique and valuable assets. They are highly mobile generating resources and there is a global market for a rapidly deployable instant supply of power generation.”

About Barry Cassell 20414 Articles
Barry Cassell is Chief Analyst for GenerationHub covering coal and emission controls issues, projects and policy. He has covered the coal and power generation industry for more than 24 years, beginning in November 2011 at GenerationHub and prior to that as editor of SNL Energy’s Coal Report. He was formerly with Coal Outlook for 15 years as the publication’s editor and contributing writer, and prior to that he was editor of Coal & Synfuels Technology and associate editor of The Energy Report. He has a bachelor’s degree from Central Michigan University.