Last month, Ulster County Executive Michael Hein released a statement of opposition to a 20-megawatt electric generating power plant proposed for the Town of Ulster, a project he said he believed, “threatens our citizens and our environment.” This week, GlidePath Power Solutions, LLC, the company behind the proposed Lincoln Park Grid Support Center power plant, responded.
In a letter addressed to Hein by Peter Rood, GlidePath’s chief development officer, sought to address what he called “misconceptions about our company and the proposed project” in Hein’s June 14 letter to the New York State Department of Public Service (DPS) and the New York State Energy Research and Development Authority (NYSERDA), as well as a meeting between developers and the county executive on Wednesday, June 27.
“Your letter, unfortunately, makes several inaccurate assertions about the project,” wrote Rood. “While we were disappointed to not have been invited to speak directly with the you about the county’s concerns, nor to have had the opportunity to provide you with accurate information prior to publication of your letter, we appreciate the subsequent meeting with you and your staff. GlidePath remains willing to work with the county and other stakeholders to address each of those stated concerns herein.”
The GlidePath-run power plant, currently undergoing an environmental review, would operate on a small parcel of a 121-acre site off Frank Sottile Boulevard. According to developer Lincoln Park DG LLC’s plans, a building housing the equipment would stand for between 30-40 feet in height; an exhaust stack would rise above the structure, and though developers were initially determined to keep that below the 100-foot height limit for the area, though developers several weeks ago said they’d scaled back the proposed height to around 80 feet, and hoped to get the stack lower than the tree line along the property, which is roughly 70 feet high. The project would include the 20 MW lithium ion battery array, and natural gas-powered reciprocating engine generators which would switch to on-site low-sulfur diesel stored in a tank if the gas supply is disrupted.
Hein’s public statement, released on Friday, June 15, said he’d one day earlier sought aid from NYSERDA and the Public Service Commission in suspending the project until policy changes could be enacted to “allow for a non-fossil fuel alternative, such as a battery-only or battery with renewable facility.”
“Current state and federal policy is severely flawed and is in stark contrast to Governor [Andrew] Cuomo’s stated environmental goals,” said Hein in his statement. “As a result of these policies, Ulster County is now faced with a fossil fuel project that includes gas engines, hundred foot smokestacks, and air pollution impacts. If this project is allowed to proceed, the result will be a lose-lose outcome that will negatively impact our quality of life and further entrench the fossil fuel industry as well as the market for ‘fracked’ gas.”
Hein said the project in its current incarnation is designed to benefit downstate communities and investors rather than the local community in which it would sit, adding that more rigorous oversight could result in projects like the one proposed by Lincoln Park DG LLC becoming better for the environment, the economy and the local community.
“With the right state and federal policy changes, this project could be transformed into one that supports the growth of our local tax base while avoiding greenhouse gas emissions and protecting our residents,” Hein said. “In Ulster County, we believe that what strengthens our environment also strengthens our community and our economy and by hosting the best and most advanced renewable energy and storage projects, we can do just that.”
But Rood argued that there is a need for the project locally as a response to data published by the New York Independent System Operator about the need for addition resources in the state’s Zone G, which covers Ulster, Greene, Dutchess, Orange, Putnam, Sullivan and Rockland counties. Rood added that despite Hein’s contention, areas outside Zone G such as Westchester County, New York City or Long Island would be served by the Lincoln Park project.
“The project will benefit local residents, not metropolitan New York,” wrote Rood. “It is simply inaccurate to assert that the [power plant] is proposed here in Ulster County only to serve the energy demands of New York City. The project will be connected to the low-voltage portion of the Lincoln Park substation, the same system to which numerous local businesses, homes and community facilities are currently connected. Because the grid operator is required to dispatch cheaper energy first, and [the power plant] will provide cheaper and cleaner energy, it will be utilized before the older, dirtier, fossil fuel plants in the region. All electric consumers across Ulster County would use and benefit from the reliability of services provided by the project because the LPGSC will offer the same service at a lower cost.”
Rood acknowledged that because of the interconnected statewide grid, it’s possible the state could pull energy from the Lincoln Park project to use elsewhere, though he added that it would be “extremely unlikely” that such a need would arise.
GlidePath also took exception to other issues raised by Hein, noting that the project actually aligns with Cuomo’s energy plans to source 50 percent of the state’s electricity from renewables and reduce greenhouse emissions by 40 percent by 2030.
“By providing a more efficient way to provide capacity and other ancillary services, the [power plant] will displace the current providers of grid support services, which are often older fuel-oil and gas-turbine generators,” wrote Rood. “[The power plant] will provide the same services with significantly less emissions.”
Rood added that the batteries would enable the project to provide frequency regulation services necessary to balance variations in output due to shifts in the environment from wind and sunlight.
While he said he understood concerns from Hein and local residents opposed to the project, Rood said that the developer would continue to be candid moving forward.
“We understand that the community is interested in fully understanding our project’s emissions and we have committed to sharing detailed data about our emissions, including sources, assumptions and calculations, throughout the SEQRA review and DEC permitting processes as we move though the SEQRA process,” Rood wrote. “We are happy to further discuss the constraints of today’s technology and why certain energy production and storage projects are required in particular regions.”
The next meeting of the Ulster Town Board is scheduled for Thursday, July 19.