Replacing Indian Point

Written by Mike Flatley, Director, Commercial Building Energy Services

Under an agreement reached earlier this year between New York state officials and Entergy, the Indian Point Energy Center could be shut down as early as April 2021. The big question going forward is what will replace the 2,000 MW of electricity currently being provided to the downstate region by Indian Point. This energy gap will occur just as New York State is working to meet Governor Cuomo’s goal of having renewable energy account for half of the electricity delivered by utilities in New York by 2030.

The next 13 years could see a proliferation of solar panels and wind farms dotting the landscape. New York already has about 2,000 megawatts of onshore wind energy as part of its system, and that figure is expected to increase over the next five years. In his state of the state address, Cuomo announced a plan to build 2.4 gigawatts of offshore wind by 2030, starting with a 90-megawatt project off the coast of Long Island. The 15-turbine wind farm will be located 30 miles southeast of Montauk, and will generate electricity for the Long Island Power Authority. This project has been in the works since last year, and could be up and running by the time Indian Point’s last reactor is shut down. New York is expected to release a master plan with proposals to locate offshore wind in the Atlantic Ocean by the end of 2017. NYS is also expecting more solar power under its NY-Sun initiative, with the potential to realize more than 3,000 megawatts of solar PV statewide by 2023.

Increased transmission capacity, such as the 450 megawatts brought on-line last year under the Transmission Owner Transmission Solutions (TOTS) program, will also help integrate ever-cheaper renewables into the state’s energy mix. For example, the $2.2 billion Champlain Hudson Power Express transmission project, which should be finished by 2021, could bring 1,000 megawatts of low-carbon hydropower from Quebec to New York City via underground high-voltage direct current (HVDC) cables.

A smaller, yet still significant, portion of the responsibility for replacing Indian Point will come from demand-side resources – energy efficiency, demand response programs, and on-site generation. As of 2016, the state had nearly 100 megawatts delivered, and another 50 megawatts committed, from a combination of these technologies. These range from overall efficiency gains, such as the 27 megawatts obtained through LED lighting replacement projects, 30 megawatts of HVAC and building management system controls, and another 25 megawatts of demand-response-enabled load. And, while energy storage is still a small part of the state’s mix, with less than 1 megawatt achieved and 15 megawatts committed, New York City has a goal to bring 100 megawatts of advanced energy storage on-line by 2020. The state’s Reforming the Energy Vision proceeding, as well as its micro-grid developments, could lead to more investments on this front.

All in all, the Governor’s office reports that transmission upgrades and efficiency measures totaling over 700 megawatts are already in service and that several generation sources are also fully permitted and readily available to come online by the Indian Point closure. That, combined with clean and renewable hydropower, will be able to generate more than enough electrical power to replace the plant’s capacity by 2021.

In the months to come, expect more information and a better idea of how the NYS plans to fill the void left by the Indian Point Energy Center shutdown.

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