After losing out on an early opportunity to build New York state's biggest battery, the owner of New York City's biggest power plant is taking steps to import renewable electricity generated upstate.
The Ravenswood Generating Station is undergoing a strategic shift to carry out the transition to clean energy called for by Gov. Andrew Cuomo and the New York legislature. The 57-year-old power plant contributes one-fifth of the city's generation capacity and played a crucial role in supplying power when Superstorm Sandy swamped the region. The owners want to maintain that leadership position but make the power differently.
The company that owns Ravenswood rebranded itself Thursday as Rise Light & Power, and it will not be building any new fossil-fueled generation, CEO Clint Plummer told Greentech Media.
It is, however, developing a 1,200-megawatt transmission line to bring wind and solar production from upstate New York into the city. The planned Catskills Renewable Connector will link up with the Ravenswood facility in Long Island City, Queens, delivering around 15 percent of the city's electricity, the company said.
"It has the ability to unlock a lot of shut-in renewables across upstate New York that have not had the ability to access customers," Plummer said.
The project amounts to a sort of geographical arbitrage. New York City has millions of electricity customers but limited space to generate wind or solar power. Upstate New York has more plentiful and affordable land but relatively little demand for electricity. The transmission line would connect supply with demand.
Rise Light & Power is not planning on owning that wind and solar, but the transmission line it's planning could instigate several billion dollars' worth of investment in upstate New York, Plummer said. That money would go to jobs and tax base in the state, he noted, whereas alternatives like importing hydropower from Canada send wealth out of state.
A setback for battery plan
The company is also planning to build a massive grid battery on the premises at Ravenswood, one of the few spots within the city that can accommodate such construction. Batteries deliver power without emitting pollutants on-site, a major difference from New York's aging fleet of oil- and gas-burning peak power plants.
But the Ravenswood battery project is still in search of a contract to anchor the business case. As a new asset class for New York power markets, battery storage requires contracted revenue to justify construction, and New York utility Con Ed recently chose a different bid in its large-scale storage procurement process.
"We’re disappointed that we didn’t win this solicitation, but it doesn’t in any way dampen our belief that we will be building a large battery on this site," Plummer said.
Rise's parent company, LS Power, recently completed the largest battery in the world and has several similarly large storage projects underway in California. LS Power also has experience building competitive transmission lines.
Transmission projects often run into local opposition, but Rise Light & Power designed the route to minimize negative impacts. Lines would be buried under public rights of way and below the Hudson River, rather than requiring easements from landowners or seizing access through eminent domain, Plummer said.
As with all transmission projects, the Catskills Renewable Connector has a long lead time. Plummer expects the project could take a couple of years to lock down revenue and finalize permits, and then another two years for construction, with operations slated to start in 2026 if things go well. That leaves time to spare to help the state reach its target of 70 percent renewable power by 2030.
The Catskills transmission announcement came on the heels of Cuomo's State of the State address, in which he revealed that European oil majors Equinor and BP won a bid to build 2.5 gigawatts of offshore wind, the largest deal of that kind in the U.S. so far.