New York Peaker Plants May Become New Community Solar Project

energy panels at solar farm
Community Solar

As New York works to reduce its carbon emissions and pollutant production, the city is looking to convert the Ravenswood Generating Station into a solar plant. Among the possible plans for the county’s 23rd largest power plant is a new community solar project named Hunts Point Community Solar.

Currently operating off of fossil fuels, the Ravenswood station serves as a peaker plant for New York and is only intended to be operational during “peak times” of energy use. Typically, peaker plants are only supposed to be used once or twice annually, but as New York City’s energy demands grow, so does the frequency of use for plants like Ravenswood. The increase in use is one reason why the city is looking for alternatives. As these plants are run, they emit carbon dioxide at a rate of double what regular plants produce. Switching to solar power would drastically reduce these emissions, which may curb some of the adverse health effects such as asthma.

Currently, there are 16 operational peaker plants like Ravenswood in the city. These are part of the New York Power Authority and generate electricity for Con Edison and National Grid. One of the biggest concerns is the release of carcinogens that may affect neighborhoods near plants like South Bronx, Sunset Park, and Western Queens.

Options like Hunts Point Community Solar will allow the plants to still operate while producing cleaner energy. The Point CDC, a non-profit organization that deals with the revitalization of Hunts Point, has been determining the feasibility of a community solar site. Possible plans include installing panels that are operated and maintained by the South Bronx community. According to the organization’s climate preparedness and resiliency organizer, Fernando Ortiz, there are plenty of sites throughout New York that are environmentally problematic.

Other concepts being considered are solar panels linked to battery storage. According to Vermont Clean Energy Group vice president Seth Mullendore, this cost-efficient option has seen a steady decrease in pricing over the years. Batteries are also quicker to be powered on when needed as a backup electricity source. Unfortunately, battery storage does come with a risk of fire, and lithium-ion batteries are not good for the environment.

Though there is no solid plan in place, Ravenswood is expected to be transitioned into a solar plant by March 2021. Whether or not it will be a new community solar project for the city is unknown, though cities like Austin, TX, and Salt Lake City, UT have proven models that community solar works.


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