November 20, 2019 / 7:28 PM / a month ago

Last coal plant operating in New York seeks to shut in February

NEW YORK (Reuters) - The operator of New York state’s last active coal-fired power plant, located north of Buffalo in Somerset, filed with state utility regulators for permission to shut as soon as Feb. 15, saying it wants to build a data center at the site.

On Nov. 15, Somerset Operating Co asked the New York State Public Service Commission (NYSPSC) to waive the state’s 180-day notice requirement before shutting the plant.

The company said in a release that it is retiring the plant due to stricter emissions regulations designed to eliminate coal in New York and deteriorating power market conditions.

In May, New York Governor Andrew Cuomo said state environmental regulators adopted rules to reduce carbon dioxide emissions from power plants that will force generators to stop burning coal in the state by the end of 2020.

The New York Independent System Operator (NYISO), which operates the state’s electric grid, will evaluate whether the Somerset plant is needed to maintain the reliability of the power system.

That is unlikely since coal has produced less than 1% of the electricity used in the state so far in 2019 after generating less than 1% in 2018, according to federal data. Ten years ago, coal produced about 10% of the state’s power.

The Somerset plant has a capacity of 675 megawatts of power. One megawatt can power about 1,000 U.S. homes.

The Somerset plant, which is located near Lake Ontario in Niagara County about 40 miles (64 kilometers) north of Buffalo, New York, currently employs about 55 people.

Somerset’s owner, Riesling Power LLC, has proposed building a data center on the site of the Somerset plant, which local newspapers say could create 165 full-time jobs.

It is also trying to build a data center on the site of another coal plant it owns in Tompkins County, New York, called the Cayuga plant. It plans to call the data centers the Empire State Data Hub.

The Cayuga plant filed its deactivation notices with the state in June and started the process of shutting on Oct. 31.

The state-owned New York Power Authority (NYPA) awarded 10 MW to the Somerset data hub proposal in July, which will come from the state’s hydropower program, and another 2 MW to the Cayuga data hub proposal in September.

Riesling said it is working with NYPA to procure additional power for the data hub and other economic assistance from the state.

Reporting by Scott DiSavino; Editing by David Gregorio

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