New York PSC to hold technical conference on Dunkirk issues

The New York State Public Service Commission plans a technical conference this fall on conflicting plans to replace and/or mitigate the loss of capacity with the shutdown of the coal-fired Dunkirk power plant.

On Aug. 16, plant owner NRG Energy (NYSE: NRG) filed with the PSC supplemental information indicating that during the July 15-19 heat wave the mothballing of 445 MW of capacity at Dunkirk resulted in “significantly changed power flows” and “significant constraints and congestion.” NRG contended that this information is relevant to the determination of the benefits associated with the proposed repowering of the Dunkirk plant with natural gas and should be included in the comparative assessment among the alternatives under consideration.

National Grid has also filed supplemental information indicating that preliminary results from its periodic system review and planning process using new base case information developed in 2013 (including increased load forecasts in western New York) indicate that some of the transmission investments considered to be avoidable under the previous base case if Dunkirk repowered may no longer be avoidable. In addition, under the new base case, other transmission projects may be found as avoidable. Further, changes in the base case also affect the amount of generation needed to address reliability issues. Based on this information, National Grid suggested that supplemental procedures may be needed in the PSC proceeding looking at the Dunkirk retirement/repowering issues.

National Grid has said that transmission upgrades alone can replace Dunkirk, which has put it in direct opposition to NRG, which has said a repowered plant is essential to system reliability and to the economic well-being of the region around the plant.

Department of Public Service Staff (DPS Staff) will coordinate with NRG, the New York Independent System Operator, National Grid, New York State Electric & Gas and the New York Power Authority to analyze the impacts of the system congestion identified by NRG, the PSC said in an Aug 23 notice about the technical conference.  National Grid should file the final results of its system review and planning process with the commission by Aug. 30 for DPS Staff’s review and evaluation. DPS Staff will convene the technical conference with interested parties to review the results no later than Oct. 15.

Dunkirk now consists of four units with a total nameplate rating of 635 MW (net). Units 1 and 2 are identical 100 MW units that began commercial operation in 1950. Units 3 and 4 are identical 218 MW units that went into commercial operation in 1959 and 1960, respectively. All Dunkirk units, when operating, have used low-sulfur Powder River Basin coal.

NRG’s offered options for the plant are:

  • Option 1—a new 422 MW combined-cycle gas turbine (CCGT) and refueling the existing 75-MW Dunkirk Unit 2 with natural gas.
  • Option 2—the refueling of the existing Dunkirk Units 2, 3 and 4 with natural gas.
  • Option 3—installation of 285 MW of natural gas-fired peaking units.
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.