Shared from the 9/19/2019 Albany Times Union eEdition

Power switch for state plaza

Sheridan Hollow plans that sparked outcry are dropped


The state is abandoning plans for natural gas-fired turbines and a microgrid in Sheridan Hollow to power Empire State Plaza, instead opting for energy-efficient and green projects to meet the sprawling campus’ needs.

The New York Power Authority and state Office of General Services will develop a large-scale solar array in Oneida County that will power up to half of the plaza’s energy needs while replacing the diesel-powered emergency generators housed at the Sheridan Avenue site, upgrading to LED lighting throughout the state complex and upgrading one of the steam-driven chillers.

The old steel smokestack at the former ANSWERS plant — a decommissioned state-run trash incinerator — also will be razed, state officials said.

Kimberly Harriman, NYPA’s senior vice president of public and regulatory affairs, said the changes are aresult of dialogue with area residents and experts in green and energy-efficient technology as well as tailoring to the state’s energy goals.

Earlier this year, the state passed the Climate Leadership and Community Protection Act, which lays out goals for reducing greenhouse gas emissions in New York. The state aims to reduce emissions 85 percent by 2050, while also making investments in renewable energy a priority.

The bill requires 70 percent of the electric generated be produced by renewable energy systems by 2030.

“When you took all those things into consideration, we charted a different path forward which we think is going to bring great benefits to the neighborhood with the replacement of the loud and smelly generator,” Harriman said. “I think that it’s a good step in the right direction.”

The project bids for microgrids came in 25 percent higher than the state had estimated, Harriman said.

Local officials and activists have been adamantly against installing natural gas turbines to heat and cool the nearby Empire State Plaza, arguing renewable energy should be used to power the complex.

The Sheridan Hollow neighborhood has a long history with the ANSWERS plant, having dealt with soot, hacking coughs and grime from the trash-burning facility. The incinerator, which produced energy for the Capitol complex, operated on Sheridan Avenue for more than a decade before it shut down.

Plans for the natural gas-fired turbines and microgrid have been at a standstill for the last year and a half as the power authority gathered input from various groups including wind, solar, geothermal and energy storage experts.

Originally, the state had planned to install two natural-gas fired turbines totaling 16 megawatts in the former trash incinerator facility in Sheridan Hollow to help power and heat the 96-acre plaza complex. Officials had expected to save more than $2.7 million annually in energy costs and remove more than 25,600 tons of greenhouse gases each year.

The Sheridan Hollow Alliance for Renewable Energy led the charge in pushing the state to examine renewable energy opportunities for powering the plaza, presenting a petition with 3,500 signatures to Gov. Andrew Cuomo and the power authority last year.

Now the state aims to get half of the necessary power for Empire State Plaza through a remote solar array built on state-owned land near the former Oneida County airport, while also upgrading the systems currently in place.

This will include $50 million to replace the existing emergency generators with “state-of-the-art efficient, low-emission and low-noise units;” $30 million to upgrade one of the one-site steam-driven chillers to reduce local gas use and emissions by 18 percent; and $16 million to install LED lighting throughout the complex.

Harriman said the new emergency generators still will run on diesel but will be the latest technology, ensuring efficiency. The current emergency generators are roughly 60 years old and weren’t designed with emissions controls, power authority officials said.

Most of the 50 percent power generation will come from the remote solar array, but officials said they’re also examining buildings in Albany for on-site panels, too. Some rooftop options include the State Museum building, the old ANSWERS plant and the parking garage in Sheridan Hollow, said Brian McVoy, NYPA’s lead program engineer.

The costs associated with the remote solar array as well as the on-site solar panels still are being determined, McVoy said.

“We are going to try and find the most cost-effective option amongst those,” he said. “It’s going to be part of the overall solar planning.” m afries 518-454-5353 @mandy_fries

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