Largest fossil fuel plant in New York City could become nation’s first to convert to renewable energy

“The repowering of Ravenswood with offshore wind is a community-driven approach to invest in a disadvantaged community and support New York in meeting its clean energy and economic goals.”

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SOURCEEcoWatch

Could New York City’s largest fossil fuel powered generator be reimagined as renewable energy infrastructure?

Queens-based developer Rise Light & Power, LLC (Rise) unveiled a proposal Tuesday to repower its Ravenswood Generating Station in Long Island City using offshore wind energy, a conversion that would mark a national first.

“America’s first renewable repowering of a fossil-fuel burning plant can happen right here in Long Island City, Queens, home to the city’s largest power generating facility. This project would greatly advance our state’s climate goals and be a win for environmental justice communities living nearby,” U.S. Congresswoman Nydia Velázquez (D-NY) said in a press release. “I believe that the repowering of the Ravenswood Generating Station can serve as a model for the rest of the country as we work to cut our dependence on fossil fuels while also providing a just transition for residents and workers.”

The 2,480-megawatt (MW) Ravenswood Generating Station currently provides New York City with a fifth of its power, according to Electrek. However, this has come at the expense of the lungs of the people of Western Queens, where 50 percent of the city’s power is generated, according to the Astoria Post. Ravenswood itself has four generators that are usually powered with gas, according to the Long Island City Post. Pollution from this and other plants has led to higher asthma rates in the area, which has earned the moniker “Asthma Alley,” according to Electrek.

The chance to remove some of that air pollution is one reason why Rise’s proposal has won wide support from local political and community leaders as well as environmental justice advocates. 

“Turning ‘Asthma Alley’ into a renewable energy corridor is a powerful statement that puts environmental justice at the forefront,” New York City Environmental Justice Alliance Executive Director Eddie Bautista said in the press release. “A renewable repowering which removes the smokestacks of Big Allis and replaces them with offshore wind and other renewables will show the world that New York City values all of its residents regardless of race, ethnicity, or economic status. It will be a beacon that shows that the energy infrastructure of the future can be built with everyone in mind.”

Others see the proposal as an example of a just transition to renewable energy, since Rise plans to train existing Local 1-2 Utility Workers Union of America (UWUA) union workers to rework the plant. 

“The union employees of Local 1-2 who have been proudly running Ravenswood for decades are ready to put their valuable expertise to work in operating new renewable energy infrastructure for New York,” UWUA Local 1-2 President Jim Shillitto said in the press release. 

The proposal was sent to New York State’s Energy Research and Development Authority (NYSERDA) Thursday in response to the state’s offshore wind solicitation, a periodic call for proposals to deliver offshore wind to the state grid. 

To make the plan possible, Rise also announced Tuesday it had acquired a stake in an offshore wind project. The site it had selected would host a number of turbines in a section of New York coast not visible from land and would be able to deliver more than 1,000 MW to the plant, the Long Island City Post reported. In the press release, Rise also said it submitted an Article VII application late in 2022 to the New York State Public Service Commission for a submarine electric system called the Queensboro Renewable Express to move power between offshore wind installations and the power plant. 

If approved, the project will work towards New York’s legally set goal of generating 70 percent of its electricity from renewable sources by 2030 and 100 percent by 2040, according to the Long Island City Post. Rise said it would transform the 27-acre Ravenswood site into a renewable hub by the end of the decade.

“The renewable repowering of Ravenswood will serve as a model of how to work with communities and repurpose transmission infrastructure to save ratepayers money,” Chief Executive Officer of Rise Light & Power Clint Plummer said in the press release. “The repowering of Ravenswood with offshore wind is a community-driven approach to invest in a disadvantaged community and support New York in meeting its clean energy and economic goals.”

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