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NYSEG abandons plan for Schuyler County facility

Facility would have stored compressed air in salt mines

By: G. Jeffrey Aaron |

After two years of engineering studies and cost evaluations, New York State Electric & Gas Corp. has decided against moving forward with plans to construct a compressed air energy storage facility in Schuyler County.

The utility company has determined that a number of site-specific issues, including the cost of developing the proposed site in the Town of Reading and the state of the energy market, including the effects of inexpensive natural gas-fired generation on market prices, make the project unfeasible.

In November 2010, NYSEG said it was beginning the study of compressed air energy storage at the site following the execution of a $29.6-million Cooperative Funding Agreement with the Energy Department — part of the federal agency’s Smart Grid Demonstration Program.

In April 2011, NYSEG received a $1 million grant from the New York State Energy Research and Development Authority for the project.

The utility has now decided, however, to not proceed. The site in the Town of Reading was the only one under consideration.

“We appreciate the opportunity to have collaborated with the Department of Energy and the National Energy Technology Laboratory on this important study, and we thank the New York State Energy Research and Development Authority for its support,” Mark S. Lynch, president of NYSEG and Rochester Gas & Electric said in a statement. “We believe that the body of technical work developed during the course of this study will be of value to others who may be evaluating CAES technologies.”

CAES entails using compressed air to spin a turbine to create electricity. For this particular project, NYSEG was looking to store the compressed air underground in depleted salt caverns and build a 150-megawatt power plant that would have been operational in late 2014. The plant was planned to operate up to 16 hours a day. By using stored compressed air, it would have reduced the need for fossil fuel-fired generating plants during periods of peak demand.

The power plant would have been built next to the Seneca Lake Gas Storage facility on the west side of Seneca Lake, about three miles outside of Watkins Glen. The site was deemed suitable because of the depleted salt caverns nearby.

The Gas Free Seneca group, one of several groups fighting plans to build an LPG storage facility in the Town of Reading, said its biggest concern was the proximity of the proposed compressed air facility to the LPG storage facility.