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Ross Ain and Harry Davitian Caithness II

January 22, 2010 @ 12:00 am EST


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We started the meeting with a remembrance of Rick Portes, from Pro Image Group, who started the videotaping of LIMBA meetings, and we are appreciative of his partner Bart Pellegrino continuing this effort.

Ross Ain opened the talk with a description of what the plant does and the technology it uses, a combined cycle plant. He described the gas turbine primary generation process, and then the recovery process from the exhaust gas.  The heat recovery process generates steam to power another turbine and generator set.  Taking the 1100 degree exhaust gas and cooling it to about 350 degrees makes the steam to turn the second turbine.  The capacity of the plant is 350 Megawatts,  about 10% of Long Island’s total average demand, and covers about  5% of peak summer load.

Caithness also has an important difference in cooling the steam to recycle it that differs from the older plants.  Once through cooling is used in Northport, in and out to the Long Island Sound, killing fish and producing thermal pollution.  Evaporative cooling is used at the Holtsville plant, which consumes a large amount of ground water.  Caithness  uses 95% less water than an evaporative cooling power plant uses.  The method is similar to a home airconditioner’s refrigerant cooling system and consumes about 35 gallons per minute.

The primary fuel is Natural Gas,  but is allowed to burn a liquid fuel up to 30 days a month.

By far, Caithness is the cleanest plant on Long Island, measured in Carbon Monoxide and Nitrous Oxides by virtue of its Natural Gas fuel and catalytic scrubbing of the exhaust.  The exhaust stack is 175 feet high, much lower than other plants.  It doesn’t have to be so high because of the lower emissions.

Caithness has a 20 Year power purchase contract with LIPA.  45 Megawatts of their output is sold on the spot market through the NYISO.  Caithness is also twice as efficient as LIPA’s most efficient plant, producing double the electricity for the same amount of energy consumed.

The buffer zone for the plant is about ¾ mile from any private homes.  Built on a greenfield site, constructed by Siemens,  the permanent operations staff is 16, split among three shifts.  Commercial generation started on the 1st of August 2009.  The plant was built on schedule, on budget with a project cost of about $500MM

Harry took over talking about the economics of the plant and the LIPA/National Grid contract.  In 2013 the contract expires.  Going through LIPA’s on island generating mix, 2/3 of their capacity is from the existing plants that are an average of 45 years old.  Most of those are coal plants converted to use oil and are much less efficient than the newer plants.  National Grid’s older plants are expensive to run, and produce more emissions than newer plants.

The current contract is based on Cost-Plus pricing, which is advantageous to National Grid.  Newer power purchase agreements put the onus on the power producer to maintain efficiencies and their cost structure.

Once again the session wrapped up with a lively question and answer session.

Two key questions from the audience stood out from the rest:

Q: What are the prospects for Caithness 2? 

A:You need a long term contract, and LIPA’s decision about the next power contract will greatly influence that.

Q:Will more of these plants lead to rate reductions?

A: LIPA needs the base load power, and they save on fuel costs.  LIPA should be obligated to pass those savings to ratepayers.

You can see the video of the speakers’ talk at Pro Image Group’s Website.     We look forward to having many more interesting speakers that our audience can interact with this year.  See the up coming roster at www.limba.net    http://proimagegroupinc.com/limba/1-22-10

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