As PSEG continues to face public backlash for installing tall utility poles throughout East Hampton Town, the utility company and the Long Island Power Authority, which owns the electric system, will face more opposition from citizens at LIPA’s October 30 board meeting.
Renewable Energy Long Island, a not-for-profit organization that advocates the use of clean energy, and other environmental groups plan to speak up against six peaker power plants on the South Fork that were included in PSEG’s long-range plan, called “Utility 2.0.” Peaker plants are power plants used during high demands for electricity.
Gordian Raacke, executive director of Renewable Energy Long Island, is just one of several people who say that installing and using peaker plants would be detrimental to the environment and go in the opposite direction of a greener future. In a letter to the State Department of Public Service in August, Mr. Raacke and others wrote that adding the peaker plants would commit the South Fork to at least 30 more years of reliance on fossil fuels.
According to Mr. Raacke, the peaker plants would run during summer months, when demand for electricity is high, which would only be about 7 percent of the total number of hours in the year. They would be separate from the existing base power plant facility that creates electricity on a full-time basis, and would similarly use fossil fuels to generate electricity.
The PSEG plan says that an addition of 25 megawatts is proposed for Montauk—10 megawatts at Navy Road, and 15 megawatts at an unspecified location. An additional 50 megawatts is planned for East Hampton at PSEG’s substation on Buell Lane in the village, 25 megawatts by 2025 and another 25 megawatts by 2027. In Southampton Town, 50 megawatts would be added, 25 megawatts at an unspecified location by 2021, and 25 megawatts at Deerfield Road in the Water Mill-Noyac area.
Mr. Raacke said 25 megawatts generates 15.3 million kilowatt hours per year, and an average household on Long Island uses about 9,600 kWh per year. Therefore, 25 megawatts would provide enough electricity to power about 1,600 average homes for a year, he said.
Adding 50 megawatts would power approximately 3,200 homes, and 75 megawatts would power about 4,800 homes, he said.
The cost of the peaker plants will be passed on to the consumer, Mr. Raacke said. He estimates that the overall cost of electricity to consumers is between 34 and 55 cents per kWh, which would rise to between 48 to 70 cents per kWh over 20 years—compared to solar and wind energy costs, he said, which are fixed and would be well below 20 cents per kWh.
But PSEG’s director of communications, Jeff Weir, said peaker plants are part of the plan in case they are needed. Renewable energy sources are being considered as well, he said.
“Solar energy efficiency and direct load control can help meet the need for the South Fork and other locations, if that’s the case, so any need for peaking can be deferred or eliminated,” he said on Monday. “With anything, you have to write in contingencies—what may be needed, what might not be needed—and you have to look at what else is being considered.”
Mr. Weir added that renewable energy sources can be intermittent and not always reliable if the wind isn’t blowing or the sun isn’t shining. For that reason, he said, battery generators and other transmission lines are under consideration.
LIPA and PSEG were scheduled to continue to accept public comments on the 2.0 plan until October 21, when the hearing closed, but the plan still has to undergo further review before approval, Mr. Weir said.
Nonetheless, Renewable Energy Long Island still plans to speak against the plans for the plants, with the backing of the Group for the East End.
Bob DeLuca, the Group’s executive director, said on Monday that the objections to the plan are more about making everyone aware of the implications. He said it isn’t easy to find the space to create solar power plants or to fight through red tape, but that it’s better to “chart the course for the future” and have a vision of where to go.
“It’s not an attack, but we want to make sure one hand knows what the other hand is doing, and where we can make headway,” he said. “Let’s just make sure we understand the implications of building more and more fossil fuel plants. We’re hoping 40 years from now we have a much different model.”