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Ross Ain, President Caithness Long Island

February 7, 2014 @ 12:00 am EST


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The Caithness Company is no stranger to LIMBA. This morning Caithness President, Ross Ain, discussed the new 350 megawatt plant that has been proposed. The original plant that Caithness completed in 2009 was the most efficient power plant that was ever built on Long Island. The new plant will use techniques that will further improve efficiency and operating range.

Mr. Ross made a painstaking explanation of how current plants operate. First explaining the difference between single cycle operations and combined cycle plants such as the Caithness design including the plant they built 4 years ago. Then he explained the efficiencies that are realized with the new plants. Older plants produce more pollution when they are operating at the optimum levels, than the new plants, but at reduced power they actually become even more polluting. The modern Combined Cycle plants remain at maximum cleanliness even when they are powered down to 50%.

In addition they can power up or down very quickly. The old power plants can takes as much as 24 hours. The reason why that is important is because we need that kind of flexibility when we are introducing more and more solar and wind generation. With solar and wind the flow of electrons can be reduced by storm clouds, and falling levels of wind. We need a system that can take up the slack quickly in order to make wind and solar more viable.

Fuel is one of the big cost items in producing power, lower fuel consumption brings substantial savings, and the new plant as well as the existing Caithness plant, use much less fuel that any other power plant on Long Island. When the power is sold it gets preference over other power plants because they can deliver the generating capacity at lower cost. Other power plants still get some of the ordered power because the need is greater than Caithness can provide. That will change as this new power comes on line, but the demand for power is still growing, and the PSE&G will still be using other plants to make up the difference.

Ross explained that the plant uses very little water, the cooling process is similar to the closed loop that we see in our automobiles. Instead of requiring access to a large body of water such we have in Northport, Port Jefferson and other locations on Long Island, the coolant is recirculated and cooled in “cooling Towers.” The process not only saves water, it avoids thermal pollution of the surrounding waters that seriously effect marine life.

The Q&A that followed was quite lively. There were people in the room that were knowledgeable about power plants in general as well as this technology and there were people from the environmental community. Those questions allowed the speaker to elaborate and fill in the information.

Ernie Fazio