An old Queens-based power plant may get recharged with new and more efficient generating equipment if the state creates a request for proposals process, a move that could come as early as next year, according to developer NRG Energy, Princeton, N.J.

Rendering Courtesy of NRG Energy
The Astoria Repowering Project would increase onsite generation from 600 MW of power to 1,040 MW.

“What we need is an offtake contract to purchase the power,” says David Gaier, a spokesman for NRG, which would fund the upgrade.

Smart Power NY­—a coalition of business, labor, and environmental groups formed to advance a clean energy agenda for the state of New York­—New York City Council Speaker Christine Quinn and other local and state officials held a press conference at City Hall on July 13 to advertise the planned $750-million Astoria Repowering Project, which was first announced in 2007. The project would add new technology and about 400 MW to the existing 40-year-plus-old powerplant in Astoria.

The project is set up in two phases, says Gaier. Phase one, which involves replacing seven oil-fired units totaling 100 MW with two new gas-fired combined-cycle units totaling 520 MW, is currently proposed to be completed by the summer of 2016. NRG believes, however, that under certain circumstances the phase one schedule could be advanced to achieve a summer 2015 completion, if a contract award is finalized by year-end, says Gaier. If phase one can be operational by the 2015 summer season, the total onsite capacity of the plant would increase to 1,020 MW, he adds. Phase two, which would begin immediately after phase one, consists of the removal and replacement of 500 MW of dual-fuel turbines with natural gas-fired combined-cycle units, totaling 520 MW, says Gaier. Phase two could be operational within three years of groundbreaking, he adds.

“It’s easier to build on top of an existing powerplant since the infrastructure is already there,” says John Baylor, director of development at NRG.

NRG submitted a response summary to the New York Energy Highway Task Force’s request for information (RFI) in April and the project, which received its Certificate of Public Convenience and Necessity (CPCN) in early 2011, is currently under review.

A decision is scheduled to be made by late summer or early fall, Smart Power NY officials say. The group sent a letter to the governor on April 18 seeking support for the project, which the group says is in line with Gov. Andrew Cuomo’s newly created task force

The planned additions to the plant would increase total onsite generation from 600 MW of power today to a total of 1,040 MW, reduce onsite peak day emissions by 98%, reduce greenhouse gas emissions by 1-million tons annually, and increase generating efficiency by 56%, NRG says.

“The Astoria Repowering Project is the environmental equivalent of replacing an old diesel-powered truck with a Prius,” Aravella Simotas, New York Assemblywoman and chair of Smart Power NY, told reporters.

If approved, the project is expected to create up to 500 jobs and use combined-cycle technology to reach 75% of its generating capacity within 10 minutes of startup, NRG says.

The combined-cycle technology captures heat from a gas turbine to make steam, Baylor says.

State Senator Michael Gianiaris says the project has not faced any opposition so far.

“This is not just a local project in Queens. Every city resident stands to benefit from the Astoria Repowering Project,” says Quinn, who adds that it would also improve air quality in the region. “It will create a new, more efficient and reliable source of energy for the city and provide hundreds of jobs at zero expense to taxpayers,” she says.

Meanwhile, a separate Astoria-based, combined-cycle power plant started up late last spring. The Astoria Energy 575-MW Powerplant consists of two gas turbines and two auxiliary transformers, and is part of a 1,000-MW combined-cycle plant.

Baylor says the need for more powerplants in the city is always increasing and that the existing Astoria Energy plant will have no effect on the NRG project.