Indian Point Energy Center (photo credit: orangecountygov.com)
Just 25 miles up the Hudson River from New York City, the plant has long been a source of controversy; nearly 20 million people live within the 50-mile evacuation radius, and incidents such as the fall-out of the Fukushima Disaster still generate interest 6 years on. Over its operating life of more than 40 years however, the plant has run without major incident, providing about 25% of clean baseload power to New York City and the surrounding area. Replacing that baseload power without adding to the region’s emissions profile represents both a short-term challenge and a long-range opportunity for distributed energy resources (DER).
A report released February 23, 2017, claims to demonstrate how energy efficiency can offset nearly 100% of the 2 GW of power capacity (16 million MW-hours over a typical year) to be retired at Indian Point. Other plans include adding new transmission lines down the Hudson River to expand capacity (approximately 1,000 MW) from Hydro-Québec plants in Canada (see picture below). Even with these offsetting measures, however, there is likely to be a gap to cover during New York’s peak demand periods. This gap will have to be filled by additional emitting sources – combustion plants firing fracked natural gas, or new utility-scale renewables for example. New York proposes to add two massive onshore and off-shore wind farms off Long Island and across the New York bight. The state is also several years into its strategic plan to deploy “Distributed System Platforms,” which is the grand transformational aim of REV for New York’s power utilities.
Champlain Hudson Power Express Transmission Line (credit: Transmission Developers Inc. chpexpress.com)
The great promise of DER in New York has always been its potential to ‘shave’ or shift the region’s peak power demands during times of highest transmission congestion (from upstate to downstate through the bottleneck of Westchester) or highest local network area constraints (e.g. hot summer afternoons when Con Edison’s distribution grid strains to meet massive air conditioning loads). Since the turn of the 21st century, virtually all of the state and utility incentive programs for DER have targeted performance and reliability during critical hours, which often fall on weekdays between 12pm and 6pm.
Replacing Indian Point’s 24/7 baseload generation, representing anywhere from 1-2 GW of round-the-clock emission-free power, is an altogether different challenge to simple critical-hours reliability. If the aim is to avoid simply burning more natural gas to cover the deficit, New York will need its new, pioneering DER incentives and REV demonstration programs to kick-start a revolution in grid design and operations and to deliver—in the next 5-10 years—mass deployment of clean, dispatchable and equally reliable power alternatives. NYSERDA’s NY Prize microgrid campaign, the NY-Sun solar initiative, Con Edison’s Demand Management Program (DMP) and non-wires alternatives campaigns like the Brooklyn-Queens Demand Management (BQDM) program (to name but a few) are already getting this started.
In the years leading up to Indian Point’s 2021 shutdown, GI Energy intends to target larger utility-scale storage and renewables + storage development in the utility territories and New York Independent System Operator (NYISO) zones now served by the nuclear plant. These projects will contribute to local transmission & distribution offsets, helping to alleviate downstate transmission congestion and local distribution infrastructure constraints. They will also be touchstones for the NYISO wholesale power markets. As NYISO can no longer rely on Indian Point’s once dependable and emission-free supply, it will need to rapidly master the trick of integrating and optimizing mass deployments of these new baseload replacement power assets.
In addition to following the traditional state & utility incentive programs from NYSERDA and Con Edison, GI Energy will also monitor the evolution of President Trump’s federal infrastructure programs (see especially #49), or carbon taxing or trading schemes that would enhance the economics of these DER projects. It is likely that such novel baseload replacement development work will require new economic incentives and yet more brainstorming on innovative 21st century energy business models—precisely what the GI Energy team lives for.
In line with our thinking, Utility Dive has reported that a new study released by the New York Battery and Energy Storage Technology Consortium (NY-BEST) found energy storage could save New York consumers $315 million if used to replace lost Indian Point capacity.