New York Governor Kathy Hochul has announced that the new Con Edison Rainey to Corona transmission line has been energized, supporting continued grid reliability, including the May 1 closure of an Astoria fossil fuel-fired power plant owned by NRG Energy. The transmission line, which spans six miles from the Rainey 345 kV substation to a 138 kV substation in Astoria, can carry 300 MW, providing enough electricity for 240,000 average-sized homes.
“As we continue our efforts to combat climate change, upgrading New York’s transmission system to deliver clean energy across the state is a top priority,” said Governor Hochul. “With this critical new transmission line, we are enhancing and upgrading New York City's electric grid and enabling the continued development of renewable energy.”
The $275 million transmission line is part of Con Edison's Reliable Clean City projects, which include the Gowanus to Greenwood and the Goethals to Fox Hills projects. All three projects are set to be completed in 2025 and will add 900 MW of transmission capacity across New York City.
Upon the completion of all three transmission lines, several peaker plants will retire, including Con Edison’s 59th Street GT1 (17.1MW) and 74th Street GT units 1&2 (37 MW) in Manhattan, Con Edison’s Hudson Ave unit 5 (16.3 MW) in Vinegar Hill, Brooklyn, the Helix Ravenswood units 1,10 & 11 (68.6 MW) in Long Island City, Queens, the recently closed NRG Astoria GTs (528 MW) in Astoria, Queens, and NRG Arthur Kill GT1 unit (20 MW) in Staten Island.
“New York State is in the middle of a fundamental change in the generation and delivery of electricity. Our priority is ensuring renewable, clean sources are integrated into the grid while polluting sources are being phased out,” said Commission Chair Rory M. Christian. “Given this fact, it is expected that additions and modifications to the utilities’ transmission infrastructure will accommodate the cleaner sources of electricity while ensuring reliability. These are much needed, welcomed changes that will improve all of our lives for the better.”
These transmission projects are needed to address deficiencies in Con Edison’s transmission load areas due to the retirement or unavailability of older, higher-polluting power plants. The closure of the Astoria plant will reduce carbon emissions and co-pollutants, bringing the state closer to meeting the goals in the Climate Leadership and Community Protection Act.
The transmission line will help increase the amount of clean energy used in New York City as the state adds more renewable generation, including 9,000 MW of offshore wind mandated by the Climate Act by 2035. Con Edison’s investment in these projects, including the $275 million spent on the Queens transmission line, amounts to $800 million.
Peaking units or simple-cycle combustion turbines are typically used only during periods of peak demand for electricity, such as in the summer. However, in 2019, the New York State Department of Environmental Conservation adopted regulations requiring peakers to comply with regulations limiting allowable nitrogen oxide (NOx) during the ozone season. If the peakers can’t comply, they need to be retired or made unavailable for operation during the ozone season. NRG Energy’s Astoria plant closed on May 1 in compliance with these regulations.
The decommissioning of peaking generation units fueled by fossil fuels, in the downstate region without any new fossil-fueled plants, is a crucial step towards achieving New York’s clean energy vision. The closure of these peaking units, situated in or close to environmental justice communities, will lead to improved air quality in these communities on days with the worst air quality. The projects will also pave the way for the supply of renewable energy generated upstate and offshore to the state's largest population centers and energy demand.
Executive Director of the New York City Environmental Justice Alliance Eddie Bautista said, “NYC-EJA has been a steadfast advocate against the re-permitting of NRG Astoria and many peaker power plants. With more than a dozen fossil fuel generators still polluting in the area, we are optimistic that the new Con Edison transmission line can lower demands for those power plants to operate and be a first step in a necessary and just transition for Queens. We are grateful for the state to focus on improving clean energy delivery and reliability to help us achieve the mandates of New York's Climate Law.”