2007-12-26 / Features

Lights May Go Out For Poletti


Western Queens has the not-so-great distinction of being home to the three leading industrial polluters in New York City. The Ravenswood Power Station, the Astoria Generating Station, and the Charles Poletti Power Project were responsible for releasing 334 tons of toxins in 2005, according to the federal Environmental Protection Agency.

But the clock is ticking for the Poletti plant and a new direction in electric power production may be on the horizon.

In December 2005, the New York Power Authority (NYPA) fired up its newest power plant directly next to the Charles Poletti power plant on 20th Avenue. The 500-megawatt, combined-cycle power facility is cleaner and more efficient, burning natural gas and low-sulfur oil.

As part of an agreement between NYPA and the Astoria community, announced in September 2002, the new plant was built under the condition that the 885-megawatt Poletti plant be shut down as early as 2008 and no later than 2010.

With New Year 2008 here and the 2010 deadline rapidly approaching for its retirement, focus has now shifted to how the city will replace the power lost when the 30-year-old Poletti plant closes for good.

One idea, a welcome relief for residents living in neighborhoods where 60 percent or more of all the power in New York City is currently generated is laying underwater cables to carry electricity across the Hudson River from New Jersey into Manhattan.

Two companies, Cross Hudson Corporation and Hudson Transmission Partners, are proposing just that, according to a December 2 report in the New York Times. Cross Hudson plans an 8.5-mile cable connected to a power plant in Ridgefield, New Jersey into Midtown Manhattan while Hudson Transmission Partners propose a cable connected to power grids in New Jersey and Pennsylvania running from Bergen County into Midtown Manhattan as well.

New York City officials have expressed their support for both plans. "We want both of these projects," said Thomas Simpson, of the city Economic Development Corporation in the Times report.

Individually, the proposed cables could not supply the city with the 885 megawatts that Poletti currently delivers. The Hudson Transmission Partners cable would bring up to 660 megawatts and the Cross Hudson Corporation cable, the rest.

The cables would be connected to a Con Edison substation on West 49th Street in Manhattan. Con Edison has said it could accommodate the two cables and affirmed the need for them in the Times report.

Con Ed is planning an underwater electric transmission cable of its own that would run underground for 9.5 miles from Yonkers into Riverdale, in The Bronx, then under the Harlem River into the Inwood area of northern Manhattan.

NYPA purchased the Poletti plant in 1974 when it was still under construction by Con Ed and known as Astoria 6. It began generating electricity as an oil burning facility in 1974 and was converted to oil and natural gas in 1980. It was officially named after Charles Poletti, the only person to serve as both governor of New York and a NYPA trustee, in 1982.

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